Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Roadgames

27) Roadgames

Yowza! I have memories of this 1981 creeper being on cable when I was younger and the scenes of hanging sides of meat (mostly pork) stuck with me permanently. I've seen it in plenty of other films from to, heck, even The Midnight Meat Train to, heck, even Coma, but this is the film that carved out that particular horror for me for life. The pale, cold, bloodless sides of beef here are most memorable.

A Hitchcock homage about 2 Americans in the Australian outback, a truck driver who is slowly putting together that he's encountered a murderer and a hitchhiker (conveniently nicknamed "Hitch," it's Jamie Lee Curtis playing the same character she did in The Fog) who helps him work out the clues even as she becomes a pawn in the cat and mouse game... which tends to end with people getting garroted.

It's well known that this is something of a mobile homage to Hitchcock's Rear Window, with our essentially stationary driver Stacy Keach slowly working through the clues. The neighbors this time aren't in the next apartment building, but in the cars he passes and those who pass him. (Robert Thompson, the googly-eyed, silent star of Patrick shows up as a red leather-clad biker.) Mostly thought it's about keeping an eye on the van. The one with the suspicious cooler in the front seat. Roadgames is an amazingly well-structured flick, not afraid to take it's time to develop the plot while never being "slow"when doing so. Keach is excellent as a character who spends more time delivering monologues than anything else. Be it into a phone or to his pet Dingo, he always sounds more like he's really talking to himself than delivering lines.

There's some pretty thrilling car chase scenes. My recent viewing of Not Quite Hollywood inspired me to put this at the top of my Netflix queue and, as pointed out in that doc with this and several other films, car chases seem to be a specialty in Australian cinema. They're also great on big vistas of Aussie outback which makes for some beautiful cinematography.

My one big complaint is that when Keach and Curtis first get together they immediately start in on his murder theory. Telling a hitchhiker this would have her thinking "gee, it's awfully nice of him to warn me through this flimsy third-person story that he's crazy as a fruitbat." Instead she's game to plot along with him. I just don't buy it.

There's a few incidences of levity to lighten the mood but things are mostly tense and stay that way. The meat is a yuck but the tension is high. This one's an under-seen classic and worth a viewing. It's good to the last shot.

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