“Happy” and “Madison” are names that likely remind most of two of the biggest comedy hits from the ‘90s, Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison. Put together, they equal the production house “Happy Madison” that Gilmore and Madison star Adam Sandler created and populated with his talented friends early in his career.
Besides Sandler’s own movies, Happy Madison has brought to the screen hits like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Joe Dirt and Grandma’s Boy. They have even moved outside of the comedy realm to dive into more dramatic leaning fare like Funny People and Reign Over Me. One other genre the studio dabbled in — but only once — was horror.
That’s right. Adam Sandler produced a horror movie.
2009’s The Shortcut, executive produced by Sandler, was conceived in 2008 as the first film in a potential line of horror movies from the new Happy Madison division, Scary Madison. The film, which stars a young Dave Franco and is directed by Nicholas Goossen of Grandma’s Boy fame, is about two brothers who move to a new town and come in contact with a rarely used shortcut that is rumored by locals to be haunted.
The Shortcut mostly went unnoticed when originally released and Happy Madison quickly abandoned the idea of pursuing horror films altogether, which is a shame because The Shortcut played with enough interesting ideas to suggest that Scary Madison had potential as a horror division worth paying attention to.
Mind you, The Shortcut definitely has its faults.
It’s easy to smell a troubled production from the start with this one. Large bits of film or script feel like they have been left behind and what’s left is a bare-bones, 85-minute horror movie that never quite reaches its full potential. Co-writer Dan Hannon had once revealed that the script was rewritten numerous times before production commenced and the film only ended up earning financial backing after agreeing to a PG-13 rating. Sigh.
Another major fault is with the acting. There are occasional highlights — mostly from the charismatic Franco — but the acting nearly all around can make this movie feel cheap and amateurish at times. However, there’s still enough here that anyone who hasn’t seen this film should really check it out.
The shortcut in question has a history tied to a killer kid and a rich family betrayed by their town and their own stature in the world. A group of kids in the modern day begin investigating some strange happenings on the shortcut and it leads to nothing good for them. This shortcut creates an incredibly interesting mythology that provides a compelling foundation.
The Shortcut packs a lot of surprises for being what it is. It feels like an episode of “The Twilight Zone” drawn out to feature length. If it had been cut down to be an episode of television, it actually probably would have worked much better. And The Shortcut has the heart and passion that only a film made by true fans can have. While parts of it feel compromised by the process of moving from script to screen, this is a wild ride that you would have once been blessed to find scrolling through cable channels after midnight while the rest of the world sleeps.
The Shortcut has time jumps, mythology, killer kids, and all kinds of surprises… everything a good supernatural mystery needs. Those elements don’t always come together, but the way they are blended here makes for a fun watch and shows that the film deserved a little more attention than it got upon initially being released onto the world.
If The Shortcut is any indication, the folks at Happy Madison are true horror fans who have an eye for good campfire stories. Who knows, maybe Adam Sandler and company will feel the horror bug bite them once again in the future. Personally speaking, I’d be here for it.