Desert Road Review – A Roadtrip Thriller with a Sci-fi Twist

Horror


Ah, Y2K. The millennium bug that induced widespread fear over the possibility of a worldwide infrastructure crash once 2000 arrived becomes infectious fodder for a teen comedy infused with horror and nostalgia. Armed with a pitch-perfect, game-for-anything ensemble and great practical effects behind the carnage and calamity, A24’s latest offers up the most entertaining, apocalyptic funny-bone-tickling scenario since This Is the End.

Comedian and actor Kyle Mooney, who co-wrote the script with writer/producer Evan Winter, makes his directorial debut here. He kicks Y2K off with a potent dose of dial-up nostalgia as it sets the stage for one unpredictable 1999 New Year’s Eve party from hell. Shy teen Eli (Jaeden MartellIT) has an easier time connecting with his unrequited crush Laura (Rachel Zegler) over AOL, despite his extraverted best friend Danny’s (Julian DennisonDeadpool 2) constant nudging and encouragement to finally make a move. Armed with liquid courage and a “Y2K” CD mix, the best friends decide to get off the couch and kick off the new year at a house party where Laura will be, along with most of the Crawford High student body. Once there, high school hierarchy humiliations become the least of Eli’s problems once the clock strikes midnight, unleashing a lethal Y2K bug that no one could have foreseen.

Mooney hones his comedic talents with a nonstop, propulsive comedy-horror that isn’t afraid to kill off even the most charismatic characters among a sprawling cast. He pulls double duty on screen as the lovable stoner Garret. It’s an awkward teen comedy decked out in millennial jokes and references, with an earworm soundtrack that transports you back to the era. There’s a zany, breakneck pace that Mooney impressively sustains for the entirety without any sags. Considering it’s meant to be a wild, most ridiculous ride, Y2K smartly ensures it never overstays its welcome.

As for the horror, Y2K runs with the unfulfilled prospect of a worldwide tech crash through a lethal machine uprising. Playing like Maximum Overdrive for millennials, Weta Workshop brings the various murder bots to life via exquisite practical effects that choke, stab, maim, and set aflame their human prey. The creative designs behind the various machine monsters lend a lot of personality to Y2K, and Mooney pulls from a variety of cinematic influences to introduce a sort of shorthand that further induces nostalgia while letting the humor shine.

Martell is appropriately dweeby and sweet, with Zegler showcasing a different side of her talents as the edgy popular girl with a heart of gold and intelligence to match. While they provide the emotional throughline in this silly journey, “Chucky” actor Lachlan Watson and Daniel Zolghadri share a similar touching arc that helps ground a revolving door of scene-stealing comedians. That includes Dennison, of course, but smaller appearances by Mason Gooding (Scream 2022, Scream VI), The Kid LaroiTim Heidecker (Us), Eduardo Franco (“Stranger Things”), Miles Robbins (Daniel Isn’t Real), Alicia Silverstone (The Killing of a Sacred DeerThe Lodge) bring no shortage of amusing moments, jabs, and gags to further flesh out this witty, weird world. And that doesn’t even touch on an extended surprise cameo that’ll leave you in stitches.

Mooney’s debut effort is winsome for its utterly charming blend of gory splatstick style and coming-of-age sweetness. It’s so heavy on nostalgia for a very specific moment in time that it might leave those born after puzzled by a lot of the jokes and references. Still, Mooney and Winter inject enough modernism to broaden its accessibility. In Y2K, Mooney and Winter are so effective at endearing audiences to this madcap scenario that you’re cheering at the gory, violent deaths but just as sad to see many of these characters fall. While some of its meaner horror impulses get largely forgotten by the end, it’s tough to mind at all thanks to the nonstop, bombastic tone, killer soundtrack, wacky murder bots, and talent in front of and behind the camera ensure a party worth rewinding the clock for.

Y2K made its world premiere at SXSW. The A24 comedy-horror is coming soon, release info TBA.

4 out of 5 skulls

 



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