ith his girl while walking in the woods one night, and she slaps him. He hits back harder, leaving her bloody and in tears. A little boy shows up on this shortcut; she asks for his help, but he responds by swinging a rock at her face. (Sometimes, it does hurt to ask, I guess.)
Fast-forward to the modern day, when a grade schooler on the shortcut is menaced by a mean old man. The kid tells his older brother, who rounds up his energy drink-slamming high school buddies to teach the grump a lesson. But guess who schools whom? And with various weapons and tools at that?
Bypassing theaters entirely, this PG-13 effort isn’t uniformly awful, but it offers nothing new. I suppose today’s tweens who’ve never seen so much as an “Elm Street” sequel might find it frightening “ emphasis on might. There are a few predictable jumps, all but preceded by a warning light.
It’s competently directed by Nicholaus Goosen (“Grandma’s Boy”), but the scares just aren’t there, and the twist is easy to spot early on. But the movie’s main problem is its actors; these kids just aren’t likable. (Outside of Katrina Bowen, who shows up every now and then on TV’s “30 Rock,” you’re not likely to run into them all that often.) One scene in particular, in which two of them talk about “cool” artists like Marilyn Manson and Shwayze, made me think I was watching an episode of “Tales from the Crypt,” as re-imagined by Nickelodeon.
If you’re seeking something for the Halloween season that you could watch with your older kids, “The Shortcut” could work. At least the sledgehammer scene delivers.