Wednesday, July 4, 2012

#688. Road Kill (2010)

Directed By: Dean Francis

Starring: Bob Morley, Sophie Lowe, Georgina Haig

Tag line: "It Will Drive You To Hell"

Trivia: The sequences inside the truck trailer were the only scenes that were shot in a studio

Road Kill, a 2010 horror/thriller from Down Under, is set in the spacious Australian Outback, a beautiful yet barren locale that, if films like Road Games and Razorback are to be believed,  is the last place you want to be when fighting for your life.

Marcus (Xavier Samuel) and his longtime girlfriend, Liz (Georgina Haig) are having some problems. To get their mind off of them, they set out on a camping trip with Marcus’ best friend, Craig (Bob Morley), and Craig’s latest conquest, Nina (Sophie Lowe). The good times quickly come to an end, however, when the group is chased down by a massive road train (an Australian term for a large rig towing a couple of trailers), which slams into their jeep and damn near kills them all. Noticing the road train has pulled over just ahead, the four decide to confront the driver, only to find the vehicle abandoned, and the keys still in the ignition. Seeing a way out of this mess, they climb aboard the huge rig and take off, but it isn’t long before they begin to wonder if it’s they who are driving the truck, or the truck that’s driving them.

The young cast does a fine job conveying the tension that exists between their characters, a small band of attractive twenty-something’s whose relationship can best be defined as strained. As the film opens, Craig and Nina are having early-morning sex in their tent while Marcus and Liz pretend to be asleep next door (Marcus even pulls away when Nina tries to initiate a tryst of their own). Despite his claims of being “cool” with it, Marcus can’t get past the fact Craig and Liz had a fling, and Liz, in turn, isn’t too thrilled to have Nina around. These feelings will eventually take a back seat to the ensuing chaos, yet continue to simmer just under the surface throughout the entire picture. As impressive as the actors are, Road Kill will be remembered for two things: the Outback, and the truck.  Gorgeously shot by director Dean Francis and his D.P., Carl Robertson, the movie makes us privy to both of the Outback’s distinct personalities: its breathtaking landscapes, and the trepidation and loneliness that go hand-in-hand with such a vast expanse of nothingness. As for the road train, it conjures up genuine dread during the cat-and-mouse game at the start of the picture, and harbors plenty of secrets for the friends to uncover after they’ve commandeered it.

Unfortunately, Road Kill falls apart once the truck, whether due to the supernatural or some otherworldly force, takes on a “personality” of its own. The film’s most effective scenes: the character's brewing anxiety, the crash, and the resulting trip that strands everyone in the middle of nowhere, are all grounded in reality, and are more than enough to get your heart pumping. To “up the ante”, so to speak, by way of the unexplainable detracts from all that's gone before, and even though Road Kill has its moments in the second half, the climax is undermined by a plot twist that felt entirely out of place.

Road Kill is certainly a good movie, but had the potential to be a better one.

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