The prospect of trusting complete strangers is a daunting exigency on our modern culture bestowed upon us through cautionary tales passed down from our parents and teachers. It’s surprising to believe that the generosity of strangers wasn’t always thought to be a veiled ruse in which to entrap unsuspecting individuals for mischievous deeds. Watch any pre-World War II film and you get the impression that trusting a stranger is a commonplace ideal that is rarely given a second thought, taking the idea that people are generally well-intention.
That being said few of us would trust someone we’ve just met for a ride no matter how desperate the situation. In our daily lives, there is an inherent mistrust of individuals; they seem, in our minds, to never have our best interests, so we must approach apprehensively. This sociological idea and premise are behind the short film The Ride.
The Ride follows a young man named Greg (Clinton Roper Elledge), an employee at a fish supply store, and although it’s not an ideal job, Greg is on his way out if he doesn’t make it in on time. On this particular day he has just missed his bus and has promised his insipid boss (Norma Burgess) that he will be there no later than 8:30 A.M. Like a deus ex machina in Greg’s dull life, a friendly salesman by the name of Al (Armen Babasoloukian), offers him a ride to work– which the young man accepts.
First, he’s taken by Al, on foot, to an empty parking lot, presumably, many blocks away from the bus stop. Once at the lot, the lone van– that is to transport Greg to his job on time– is strangely parked over multiple parking spots. Greg realizes this is the prototypical vehicle for misdeeds as he reluctantly climbs aboard: a white windowless van, the epitome of creep. What follows is a wild ride of imagination where Greg fears the worst as his mind races to piece things together that may or may not be, and might merely be attributable to a mind fueled by one too many horror tales– at one point Greg visualizes Al as a rabid zombie. As the ride progresses, and Al continues to talk incessantly, pontificating about how one should love one’s occupation (and other philosophical ideals on how to live life), every passing minute looks bleaker than the next for young Greg, as he imagines not just his demise but his potential escape as well with equal mental flourishes of violence.
These moments are comical and urgent, there’s a sense of seriousness, but a ridiculousness to them as well. Does the young man have any reason to trust this man– and vice versa? Is he a real threat, or is the salesman simply a bubbly and optimistic man willing to share his excitement with the world or is there something hiding behind the veneer?
The Ride is a fascinating short film that takes something mundane, such as taking a ride from a stranger in broad daylight and turns it into something tense yet comical. It’s a fun exercise in suspense and low-budget filmmaking and plays on audience expectations. Throughout we expect the worst from the salesman, but then, we don’t know much about Greg either, complicating our perspective and whom we should trust and cheer for. In the 21st century The Ride poses the question, can we trust complete strangers, and if so, can we learn something by connecting with others? In the end, The Ride is not just about the fear of placing our lives in the hands of strangers, but explores, as well, our fear of socializing with complete strangers. Our minds have the incredible ability to conjure up the worst in people demonizing them before we can actually know the human being beyond the superficial. Or maybe the salesman is a horrible person and strangers should always be approached with caution in the spirit of self-preservation. Either way, The Ride makes for one hell of a short and thought provoking film.
You can find the award-winning short film by writer and director Waylon Bacon— for free– on Vimeo. The Ride has played at such festivals in the past year as Another Hole in the Head, Brainwash Movie Festival, and won Best Low Budget Short at Berkeley Video and Film Festival.