Wych Kaosayananda's 'The Driver' Brings Family Melodrama to the Zombie Genre [Review]

After their compound is overtaken by a rogue group of looters, a family tasked with holding down the fort is shaken to their core. Fleeing for Haven, a safe house rumored by many, confirmed by none, The Driver (Mark Dacascos) and his daughter Bree (Noelani Dacascos) race against time and the plague turning the dead into the living once more. En route to the mythical Haven, the truth comes out about the girl’s father, an ex-contract killer who is used to handling business with cold steel.

If there’s one thing The Driver does well, it is doing things differently than most zombie films. Rather than focus on copious amounts of gore or show-stopping kills, the focal point of this film is the family drama, specifically the lengths that The Driver will go to keep his daughter safe, even as death seems to be right around the corner. This is aided by the fact that the main characters are father and daughter in real life, helping a natural chemistry come together.

Rather than infantilizing the child, Bree is seen as teachable and capable, overcoming her grief not because she wants to, but because she has to. At times, things do get melodramatic, but in a subgenre so filled with blood and dismemberment, a change of pace isn’t so bad every now and then. She isn’t automatically a crack shot when she first gets her hands on a firearm, but when shit hits the fan and it’s time, she can pull it out. It may take a few extra spent rounds, but this grounding in realism helps make the film feel just a bit more believable.

What doesn’t make the film as believable is some of the acting. Again, things get melodramatic at times, with some of the acting feeling canned at the best of times, and forced at the worst of times. I’m less quick to throw Bree’s actress Noelani Dacascos under the bus for this one, as this is her first role in a feature film, but as a good guy, I’m not feeling Mark Dacascos as The Driver. In a more action-driven film, this could be forgiven, but when the relationship between father and child is your centerpiece, anything that could affect its portrayal is going to stand out more. He’s not outright unlikeable, but his cold delivery tends to go beyond his backstory as a hitman.

The Driver isn’t a bad film by any means. I can appreciate what it tries to do differently, how it tries to subvert the tropes of a subgenre that has been done and overdone, especially in the last couple of decades. Beyond that, it’s not necessarily a game-changer, but that doesn’t immediately disqualify it from being passable. There are worse ways to spend ninety or so minutes, if nothing else.

The Driver is available now on DVD and VOD.