Saturday, July 6, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Roadkill (2011)

This one's a bit different from most SyFy productions, seeing as it was shot in Ireland with a mostly British crew and cast, and directed by Johannes Roberts who usually works for the UK low budget market. It seems fair to assume that Roadkill wasn't produced primarily made with the Channel in mind, but rather found its way there somewhere for its premiere. Consequently, the film follows the formulas of direct to DVD horror rather than those of the SyFy Channel film.

A bunch of American young ones (which is to say, British actors attempting American accents because the British just hate casting Americans in their movies, though the actors are faring rather better with it than most Americans trying a British one, and slightly better than most of their peers going for American) are making a tour through scenic Ireland in an old RV. It's all a ploy of Ryan (Oliver James) to win back his former girlfriend Kate (Kacey Barnfield) who is living and working in Ireland now. Things actually would go well with Ryan's plan, if an encounter with some Travellers led by a particularly sleazy guy named Luca (Ned Dennehy) didn't pave the way to catastrophe.

During the course of said encounter, the kids steal/take (it's complicated) a cheap-looking amulet, Chuck the designated jerk of the crew (Diramuid Noyes) accidentally runs over an old Traveller woman, and everybody gets cursed by her to be one by one killed by that most Irish of monsters, a roc.

Going on the run, our dubious bunch of heroes soon find themselves lost in a peculiar fog, and soon enough - as promised - are picked off one by one by an actual (serviceable) CGI roc. If that's not enough trouble for American tourists to cope with, Luca and his bunch of backwoods folk really, really want their amulet back.

So yes, basically, Roadkill attempts to spice up the "kids on the run from a monster" movie by adding bits and pieces of backwoods horror to it. At first, this attempt didn't exactly win me over: it's always difficult to get interested in what happens to characters who are quite as bland (though pretty) and/or jerky as our heroes here are. The old gypsy curse bit is also rather problematic and pretty much played out since the 1940s or so (wait, does that make gypsy curses retro now?).

Once the film gets going, though, and the herd of characters is thinned, Roberts does at least do some rather effective things with them. Roadkill is surprisingly ruthless too, much more willing to inflict not just death but pain on its characters than you usually see in a SyFy movie. I'm not talking major writing revelations here, but at least a willingness to break some of the rules for character types and their deaths and actions in horror movies. The movie does not just reward heroism in characters because we like to see it rewarded.

On the acting side, there's a minor appearance by Stephen Rea, some choice scenery chewing by Ned Dennehy, and better than they need to be performances by Kacey Barnfield (whose character additionally has never explained powers of ass-kicking, which I always approve of in horror heroines) and Diarmuid Noyes. The rest of the cast is perfectly alright, unless you need The Method in your films about rocs chasing people through the Irish countryside.

So, all in all, this not-quite SyFy Original is quite a bit better than it initially looks like, and definitely more entertaining than the other films of Roberts I've seen.

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