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Road Kill (2010)

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Road Kill (click for larger image)Reviewed by MattFini

Starring Xavier Samuel, Sophie Lowe, Georgina Haig, Bob Morley

Directed by Dean Francis

Distributed by Lightning Entertainment


Being a massive admirer of Australian horror films dating back to the Anthony I. Ginnane era of the 70s and 80s, all the way up to the Greg McLean duo of Wolf Creek and Rogue, I’m always excited to sit down with a previously unseen Aussie horror flick. I’d go so far as to say I come away a happy man 85% of the time so, upon discovery that Road Kill (original title Road Train, changed presumably because we Yanks wouldn’t know what the hell a road train was) was culled from a few independent filmmakers down under, I couldn’t wait to give it a watch.

Beginning like a cross between Duel and another superior Aussie flick, Road Games, we find a foursome of twenty-somethings on a camping trip through the Australian Outback. Almost immediately, they encounter a massive ‘road train’ (a double flatbed truck with a shipping container strapped to each) on the highway and the hostile vehicle rams them off the road, totaling their vehicle.

Despite a promising beginning with potentially interesting characters and a creepy, intimidating concept (a sinister road train), Road Kill squanders its potential by hurling itself off the rails, descending into rank absurdity: Fearing the harsh elements of the Outback, our heroes commandeer the seemingly stranded road train and quickly find themselves stranded once again. This time when the driver, under the influence of the mysterious vehicle, loses the main road and inadvertently pilots the truck up a narrow pass from which it can’t easily be reversed out of. The potential road which could be used to turn the truck around is conveniently ignored (despite glimpsing it numerous times in clumsy master shots) until the opportune climax in which it is used to escape. Such sloppiness is intrinsic of the duration, and Road Kill quickly becomes an experience where you find yourself yelling at the screen – even if you’re not normally that guy. You will be while sitting through this nonsense.

Road Kill (click for larger image)And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Director Dean Francis and writer Clive Hopkins saddle their film with some of the most unsympathetic kids in recent memory. The repressed jealously brimming beneath the surface of Marcus (Xavier Samuel) and Craig’s (Bob Morley) friendship is the crux of the group’s dysfunction, but it’s never handled in a believable way. For example, when one of the couples decides to hike back towards the main road and look for help, the jealous guy throws a bottle of water at the girl’s feet, spilling it out into the arid desert. Furthermore, Hopkins’ script finds the kids literally outdoing each other with terminally stupid behavior. One girl claims she saw a shack a few miles back, only to traipse off in a completely different direction from which they traveled, while her angry lover, thirsty after wasting an entire bottle of water in said hissy fit, pisses in a bottle and tries drinking it, despite being out in the sun for a few hours tops.

It doesn’t take long to reveal that there’s something supernatural about the titular road train, only the movie decides to play its cards close to the vest. Normally, cinematic ambiguity is better than over explaining everything, but the problem with Road Kill’s lack of explanation is that it seems to use its otherworldly aspects as a crutch for terrible writing. We’re never told why the hiking girl is cognizant of a shack that she never actually passed, for example, and I’m unwilling to buy into the explanation that she was ‘willed’ to find it by the unseen forces at play. Nor are we told why the shack is inexplicably stacked with cans of blood that this bimbo becomes addicted to slurping. There’s no established framework to hold the story’s glue together and, when coupled with insufferable characters, it culminates in a baffling and annoying experience.

Dean Francis is unable to cover the script’s frequent inadequacies with his direction, either. He stages some effective car crashes but fails in mounting the proceedings with any lasting dread. His cast tries hard, but they’re diminished through a story in which they never feel like real people – only unappealing genre clichés. Francis’ actresses (Sophie Lowe and Georgina Haig) muster some sympathy with convincing reactions to the increasingly stupid happenings, but it’s too little, too late.

There’s something of a nifty idea floating around Road Kill, but it was never developed beyond the potential germ. The concept of a devious truck powered by human bodies echoes the earliest works of David Cronenberg, with bleeding wires serving as veins, and pulsating walls suggesting a heartbeat somewhere within the metallic monster. The inclusion of a three-headed dog raises eyebrows as well, but it goes thoroughly unexplored just like everything else.

Beyond some surface positives (decent acting, effective car accidents), there’s just not a heck of a lot to enjoy here. It’s not scary and its attempts at psychological horror fall entirely flat. But you really can’t holster any one aspect of Road Kill with blame. Nothing about it plays, and it it’s hard to imagine being anything other than annoyed while slogging through these dire proceedings.

1/2 out of 5

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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