Tuesday, August 9, 2016

In short: Road Games (2015)

Somewhere in rural France - the huge empty part films have taught me is nearly unpopulated except by cannibals, serial killers and immortal Nazis. After helping fellow hitch-hiker Véronique (Joséphine de la Baume) out of a spot of bother with a driver, brit Jack (Andrew Simpson) teams up with her. Despite a certain language barrier, there’s romance in the air: Jack running away from some sort of affair gone wrong and Véronique being rather French.

Things take a turn for the sinister when they are picked up by one Grizard (Frédéric Pierrot). At first, Grizard is perfectly pleasant – if a bit too happy picking up road kill and depositing it in his trunk for Jack’s (and my) taste – but Véronique doesn’t have a terribly good feeling about him. Nonetheless, they agree when Grizard invites them to spend the night in his and his wife Mary’s (Barbara Crampton) home. There’s a serial killer roaming the roads of this part of the country, so staying outside just isn’t safe, or so Grizard says. So perhaps, agreeing to the invitation was a better idea than horror movie lore suggests…Of course, the younger couple may harbour a secret or two themselves.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Abner Pastoll’s fine thriller. It’s the kind of film that does very little I’d strictly call new but it uses the old quite a bit better than many films tending the same plot(s). Why, this is a plot-twist heavy thriller where I even found myself enjoying the plot twists! It helps that these twists generally make sense, and don’t go out of their way to make the things that went on before them absurd even if they do stretch plausibility once or twice; it’s the sort of approach that even makes those twists you do see coming effective as parts of the narrative (well, most of them, at least).

Pastoll also makes very good use of the – sometimes as sun-drenched as is traditional – rural horror film landscapes of France, aiming for the feeling of isolation that comes with large empty spaces. As presented, the house of Gizard and Mary is pleasantly creepy too, without the film feeling the need to go so overboard with the New French Gothic (that’s a thing, right?) you have to ask yourself why anyone entering it wouldn’t just run the other way at once.

The acting is good too, the core quartet giving performances suggesting just the right amount of depths and secrets to their characters. I’m happy with Barbara Crampton’s career revival as a wonderful character actress anyhow, and her performance here just cements how good she is as the kind of weird role contemporary horror movies can provide.

Finally, the film even has a bit of a moral: when visiting a country, it might behoove one to understand something of its language beyond “hello”, “goodbye” and “I don’t understand”.

No comments: