Road Games is an odd film. On the one hand, it’s such a slow-moving film that there’s really not a whole lot of plot to describe. On the other hand, what little plot that does exist all hinges on a big twist that I really can’t reveal. Considering how offended some people get when I reveal the end of a Lifetime film on this site, I can only imagine the reaction if I spoiled this film.
Jack (Andrew Simpson) is a depressed British guy who is stranded in France. He’s been hitchhiking across the country, hoping to make his way to Calais so that he can catch a ferry back to the UK. Oddly, he’s traveling with no bags. When we first meet Jack, he’s frustrated because nobody is willing to stop and pick him up.
Jack does eventually meet another hitchhiker, Veronique (Josephine de la Baume). Despite the fact that Jack speaks little French and Veronique speaks little English, they have an immediate chemistry. Veronique even lets Jack know why nobody wants to pick him up. Apparently, there’s a serial killer in the area!
Shortly afterwards, a car actually does stop. The owner of the car, Grizard (Frederic Pierrot), offers them a ride. Jack quickly gets in the car but Veronique is weary of the rough-spoken Grizard and only reluctantly gets in the back seat. They drive. Grizard asks way too many personal questions. He stops to pick a dead rabbit off of the road. He gets mad when Jack tries to turn on the radio. He also mentions that, because of a strike that neither Jack nor Veronique had heard about, there are no ferries from Calais. He offers to let Jack and Veronique stay at his home for the night. Though Veronique is reluctant, Jack readily agrees.
Grizard’s wife is Mary (Barbara Crampton). Grizard insists that Mary is British but Mary tells Jack that she’s actually from the States. Veronique doesn’t trust either Grizard or Mary but Jack says that they’re probably just lonely. Veronique is offended that she and Jack are given separate rooms. Jack replies that they’re probably just old-fashioned…
And that’s all I can tell you about the plot! There’s a really big twist and it’s actually fairly clever. But, my God, it takes forever to get there. Road Games is a very slow film. I know some of that was to build up suspense and the film is certainly not a failure but it’s still hard not to feel that Road Games was basically a terrifically effective 20-minute short film that was unnecessarily padded out to 95 minutes.
Road Games did the festival circuit in 2015 and got a release earlier this year. It’s currently on Netflix and I guess I would give it a partial recommendation, especially if you’re a fan of the horror road genre. There was a lot I did like about the movie: the cinematography is gorgeous and the original score is evocative of the best of giallo. The acting is okay, though Barbara Crampton is really the only stand-out in the cast. Throughout the film, the characters speak in a combination of French and English and Road Games makes good use of the language barrier to keep us off-balance. (How much is Jack understanding? we constantly wonder.) But the film itself is just so slow! I’ll be curious to see what director Abner Pastoll does next. I just hope his next film has a steadier pace.