Road to the Well is a low-budget dark comedy thriller from the mind of writer-director, Jon Cvack, and stars Micah Parker, Laurence Fuller and Marshall R. Teague. The film journeys with Jack, a drifter who meets up with his old friend Frank, whose desk-bound job and down-on-his-luck relationship status leave him vulnerable. After Frank gets involved with a woman at the bar, he reaches out to Jack for help when he wakes up after a brutal attack only to find the woman's body in the trunk of his car. The cool, calm and collected Jack spearheads the mission to get rid of the body as the friends embark on a road trip with many twists and turns.
Road to the Well is reminiscent of mystery thrillers such as Don't Breathe, Mud and Funny Games. While it starts with a tip of the hat to television series The Office with an offbeat and awkward sense of humour, it quickly ushers in a sense of dread as our co-leads find themselves on the run. While the age-old question of "would you help your best friend bury a body?" comes into play, the filmmakers add an extra layer of tension to proceedings with an inside angle. Offering breadcrumbs along the way like the story of Hansel & Gretel than Jack & Jill, each character's motives become distressingly clear.
This film is at its best when Parker and Fuller, Jack and Frank respectively, come into contact with Marshall R. Teague as Dale. While a pivotal scene, it's a pity that they didn't make this dynamic the focal point of the film. Teague's performance is immense and his character's complexity makes him seem worthy of a spin-off. While Teague steals these scenes, Parker and Fuller are compelling and despicably charming as buddy movie co-leads. Then, Barak Hardley's laid-back and annoyed performance adds to the comedic slant. The shifting power plays and set up have some parallels with Don't Breathe and the tension becomes more palpable as morality themes are expounded upon and a critical stand-off ensues.
"We're all dying... some of us are just impatient."
The co-leads and their dirty secret, set against the urban sprawl leading to Northern California echoes aspects from Mud. While mostly shot at night, the uneasy atmosphere, natural setting and unpredictable air of misadventure give it some similarities as their history catches up with them. The psychotic undertones, lack of empathy and almost playful gamesmanship echo moments from Funny Games, as the filmmakers employ similar off-screen tactics when it comes to representing violence. These dark elements are reinforced by the Lynchland lighting and foreboding, relentless soundtrack.
Road to the Well is a cleverly composed film, making full use of its resources and opting for some thoughtful and lingering shots. Scenes involving a car lighter, the burial and round table discussion show great promise for Cvack's debut. While the balance between comedy and thriller genres is difficult to establish, he manages to keep us on the hook. It's compelling and sharp, but Road to the Well could have used a bit more polish. There could have been more extrapolation around Jack and his telltale motives, and the dark comedy would've worked better with a few awkward situations around the corpse in the boot.
All in all, it's a solid indie low budget comedy thriller with a promising concept and enough substance to keep you invested. The lead performances steady the character balancing act with a noteworthy turn from Teague. The offbeat comedy and dark thriller clash keep us curious, while the writing and delivery make it artful and thoroughly entertaining.