Safe House 1618 is the latest film about criminals on the run taking refuge in a house that turns out not to be nearly as safe as they thought. From Fight for Your Life and The Desperate Hours to Hideout and Blood Massacre it’s a well-used theme in several genres. Can writer/director Calvin T. Shepherd (Forgery, Country Mustard) find a new way to tell it?
The film opens with the murder of a bound man by a masked figure. A cell phone message indicates the victim double-crossed whoever ordered his death. From there we move to three masked figures in the back of a truck. It backs into the driveway of a house with an armed guard who is stupid enough to walk up to the truck and let himself be disarmed.
A kidnapping and execution-style shooting later the trio is revealed to be three women who we’ll later find out are sisters, Joelene (Jasmine Day, Country Mustard), Lee (Matison Card, Mercy Kill), and Jamie (Brittney Carpenter, Portrait of Pearl) along with Craig (Jesse Davis, No Storybook Love) their driver are laying low in the titular building. But it seems they’re not alone.
Safe House 1618 gives us a few clues at the start, enough to figure out a basic idea of the plot, but no details. It’s not until around the twenty-minute mark that a news broadcast gives us confirmation that the two murders are connected, one in revenge for the other. And we recognize Senator Gallagher Kelly (Andrew Hook, Riot, Voyage of the Chimera) the father of the second victim as the man on the cell phone in the opening scene.
Safe House 1618 took everything I have and then some. I learned so many lessons along the way. I wish I could go back and change so much.Calvin T. Shepherd
Unfortunately, none of this is very exciting. From the senator’s woefully inept security detail to artsy editing that constantly drew me out of the story, Safe House 1618 keeps shooting itself in the foot. The pacing is also absolutely terrible with several scenes drawn out way too long. That’s somewhat understandable when they’re making their way from the stashed getaway vehicle to the safe house. When it’s an endless montage of then killing time in the house there’s really no excuse for it.
On his Facebook page, Shepherd says he wishes he could change a lot about the finished film. Now I don’t know what specifically he would have changed but I would hope it was all the irrelevant footage that makes an already slow-paced film absolutely drag. By the time Senator Kelly hires the hitman known only as No. 1 (Ryan Fredericks, The Professionals, Country Mustard) and he finds the sisters the film is forty minutes in and still has just over an hour to go.
At this point Safe House 1618 takes a bit of a twist and starts to play out more like a slasher than the crime film we’ve been watching up to that point. The first of his victims is even killed while masturbating in the shower, a killing Jason would certainly approve of. Despite some effectively creepy sequences Safe House 1618 never manages to really gel as a horror film either. There’s a long drug-induced psychedelic trip that stops things dead and a nightmare scene that provides a jolt but would have worked better earlier in the film.
I could see what the director was trying to accomplish with Safe House 1618’s mix of crime, horror, and drama. But it’s also just as easy to see why it doesn’t work, it’s too long and too talky. Worse, the leads are unlikeable at the film’s start and only get worse as cabin fever and paranoia set in. By the time the script gives them some humanizing backstory it’s way too late.
Shorn of fifteen to twenty minutes and with the final act tightened up a bit Safe House 1618 could have been an acceptable character-oriented thriller. Instead, it’s an overlong misfire that often feels like it’s trying to be artsy when it needs to be gritty. It’s an interesting failure, but unfortunately still a failure.
Safe House 1618 is available on VOD and Digital platforms from High Octane Pictures, you can check their Facebook page for more information.