Tag Archives: Road Games

Fright Club: Vehicular Horror

We homaged another topic! Thanks Paul for talking us into doing a podcast on vehicles in horror. So many to choose from!

5. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

We don’t want to leave out airplanes—that terrifying vehicle of the sky, the tight metal tube of death hurtling you thousands of feet above ground to a somewhat likely death. Here were our thoughts:

  • Red Eye
  • Final Destination
  • Quarantine 2
  • Snakes on a Plane

We landed (ha! Get it?) with John Lithgow on George Miller’s visceral, claustrophobic segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Lithgow’s John Valentine’s so much more posh, more vulnerable, more priggish than scene-chewing Shatner of the 1963 TV episode. He’s hard to root for, but that thing on the wing—slimy, aware, goading—he’s reason enough to stay on the ground.

4. Christine (1983)

Obviously we needed to include a film about a killer car. Our options:

  • Death Proof
  • The Hearse
  • The Car

A diabolical beauty seduces a young outcast, killing anyone who infuriates her. A fondness for Fifties culture, a solid performance from Keith Gordon, and John Carpenter’s thumbprints make this Stephen King adaptation a goofy bit of fun.

3. Road Games (2015)

We also wanted at least one car chase movie, and there were a lot of great possibilities:

  • Jeepers Creepers
  • Duel
  • Joy Ride
  • Road Games (the 1981 Stacy Keach/Jamie Lee Curtis one)
  • Race with the Devil

That’s a good looking crop of movies! We liked Abner Pastoll’s Road Games for the list because not enough people have seen it, it keeps you guessing from beginning to end, and, like you, we love Barbara Crampton.

2. Transsiberian (2008)

It turns out, an awful lot of great or bizarre or awful-but-endlessly-watchable horror has been made aboard a train. We narrowed down our list to:

  • Creep
  • Midnight Meat Train
  • Terror Train (a George Wolf favorite)
  • Beyond the Door III (Amok Train – which I think is really set aboard a boat)
  • Night Train to Terror (insane, just insane)
  • Horror Express

And somehow we wound up choosing a thriller more than horror, and you’re asking yourself why. Because Transsiberian is a nailbiter from writer/director Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist), it’s clearly a superior film than the rest of those on this list, and we want you to watch it. Woody Harrelson, totally unaware that his wife (Emily Mortimer) is unsatisfied in their relationship, keeps introducing her to the wrongest possible people on this train. Where is his head? Goes scary, wild, tense places.

1. Train to Busan (2016)

We are always, always interested when a filmmaker can take the zombie genre in a new direction. Very often, that direction is fun, funny, political—but not necessarily scary. Co-writer/director Sang-ho Yeon combines the claustrophobia of Snakes on a Plane with the family drama of Host, then trusts young Su-An Kim to shoulder the responsibility of keeping us breathlessly involved. It works. Sometimes funny, sometimes shocking, always exciting and at least once a heart breaker, Train to Busan succeeds on every front.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to France

Road Games

by Hope Madden

Writer/director Abner Pastoll takes his cues from existing genre efforts, but the tale he weaves with Road Games is more than fresh and intriguing enough to stand on its own.

The film opens with unnervingly effective sound editing, as we witness the disposal of a body, pulled from a car trunk on its way in pieces to the overgrown countryside. Cut to Jack (Andrew Simpson) standing roadside, his thumb proudly announcing his purpose. He stands directly in front of a roadway sign warning in French: Danger! Do not pick up hitchhikers.

We’ll soon realize that Jack doesn’t speak French.

Pastoll continually uses this type of clever shorthand to utilize language barriers and heighten Jack’s helplessness – a state Jack himself is blissfully unaware of.

Unsurprisingly, Jack’s having no luck on the road, but soon he comes to the aid of a young woman – a fellow traveler – whose ride has become belligerent. Veronique (Josephine de la Baum) and Jack make the most of the time they have to kill on the sun dappled countryside until a kindly if odd man offers both a ride to his home for the night, with the promise of a lift to the ferry in the morning. Weird things get weirder in a film with an equal volume of red herrings and road kill.

Pastoll develops atmospheric dread reminiscent of that 1970 doomed road trip through the French countryside, And Soon the Darkness. In both films, there’s plenty you don’t know, language barriers heighten tensions, and pastoral isolation amplifies the danger.

But Pastoll inverses the narrative. And Soon the Darkness asked you to participate in the unraveling of a mystery. In Road Games, you can’t quite figure out what the mystery is.

The film has its share of problems. It too often feels contrived, it relies a bit heavily on stock genre images for shock value, and its slow pace sometimes feels leaden rather than languid. But in the end, the film succeeds due to Pastoll’s slyly layered writing combined with committed, idiosyncratic performances – especially from genre favorite Barbara Crampton and French character actor Federic Pierrot, as the couple who puts up the travelers for the night.