The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Road Games (dir by Abner Pastoll)

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.




Playing Catch-Up With 6 Quickie Reviews: The Big Game, The Connection, Graduation Day, McFarland USA, Taken 3, and War Room

Here are 6 more reviews of 6 other films that I watched this year.  Why six?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers, that’s why.

The Big Game (dir by Jalmari Helander)

In The Big Game, Samuel L. Jackson plays the President of the United States and you would think that fact alone would make this film an instant classic.  Unfortunately, this film never really takes advantage of the inherent coolness of Samuel L. Jackson playing the leader of the free world.  When Air Force One is sabotaged and crashes in the wilderness of Finland, President Jackson has to rely on a young hunter (Onni Tommila) from a group of CIA agents disguised as terrorists.  Tommila does a pretty good job and the scenery looks great but at no point does Samuel L. Jackson says, “Check out this executive action, motherfucker,” and that’s a huge missed opportunity.  As for the rest of the film, it takes itself a bit too seriously and if you can’t figure out the big twist from the minute the movie starts, you obviously haven’t seen enough movies.

The Connection (dir by Cedric Jiminez)

Taking place over the 1970s, the French crime thriller tells the largely true story of the efforts of a French judge (played by Jean Dujardin) to take down a ruthless gangster (Gilles Lellouche) who is the head of one of the biggest drug cartels in the world.  The Connection run for a bit too long but, ultimately, it’s a stylish thriller that does a very good job of creating a world where literally no one can be trusted.  Dujardin, best known here in the States for his Oscar-winning role in The Artist, does a great job playing an honest man who is nearly driven to the point of insanity by the corruption all around him.

Graduation Day (dir by Chris Stokes)

Hey, it’s another found footage horror film!  Bleh!  Now, I should admit that this horror film — which is NOT a remake of that classic 1980s slasher — does have a fairly clever twist towards the end, that goes a long way towards explaining a lot of the inconsistencies that, up until that point, had pretty much dominated the film.  But, even with that in mind and admitting that Unfriended and Devil’s Due worked wonders with the concept, it’s still hard to feel any enthusiasm about yet another found footage horror film.

McFarland USA (dir by Niki Caro)

McFarland USA is an extremely predictable but likable movie.  Kevin Costner plays a former football coach who, while teaching at a mostly Latino high school, organizes a cross country team that goes on to win the state championship.  It’s based on a true story and, at the end of the film, all of the real people appear alongside the actors who played them.  There’s nothing about this film that will surprise you but it’s still fairly well-done.  Even Kevin Costner, who usually gets on my last nerve, gives a good performance.

Taken 3 (dir by Olivier Megaton)

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is back and he’s killing even more people!  Fortunately, they’re all bad people but you really do have to wonder what type of dreams Bryan has whenever he goes to sleep.  In Taken 3, Bryan’s wife (Famke Janssen) has been murdered and Bryan has been framed.  He has to solve the case and kill the bad guys while staying one step ahead of the police (represented by a bored-looking Forest Whitaker).  Neeson does all of his usual Taken stuff — the intense phone conversation, the steely glare, and all the rest — but at this point, it has literally been parodied to death.  If you’re into watching Liam Neeson kill ugly people, Taken 3 will provide you with adequate entertainment but, for the most part, it’s but a shadow of the first Taken.

War Room (dir by Alex Kendrick)

I saw the War Room in Oklahoma.  It was being shown as part of a double feature with The Martian, of all things!  Anyway, this film is about an upper middle class family that hits rock bottom but they’re saved by the power of prayer!  Lots and lots of prayer!  Seriously, this film almost qualifies as “prayer porn.”  Anyway, the film was badly acted, badly written, incredibly heavy-handed, and ran on way too long but, on the plus side, it did eventually end.