Road Train (2010)
★★ / ★★★★
A camping trip in the outback proved far from enjoyable when Craig (Bob Morley), Nina (Sophie Lowe), Marcus (Xavier Samuel), and Liz (Georgina Haig) were driven off the highway by a road train, very similar to a gargantuan semi truck. One with a broken arm while the others remained relatively unscathed, they noticed that the truck that seemingly harmed them on purpose did not simply drive away. There was a possibility that the whole thing might have been an accident so Marcus and Liz decided to approach the truck for help. When the couple got there, however, there was no driver even though they key was in the ignition. Written by Clive Hopkins, “Road Train” must be given credit for trying something new. Instead of giving us yet another blade-wielding masked serial killer hoping to kidnap and torture city kids vacationing in the outback, it touched upon the idea that perhaps the road train was a conscious being. Its problem, unfortunately, was it failed to delve into its premise deeply enough and it took far too long to reveal to us the contents of the truck’s containers. Its first fifteen minutes were inspired by the somewhat understated mood and texture of Richard Franklin’s “Roadgames” mixed with the situational horror of Victor Salva’s “Jeepers Creepers.” The highway chase did not look especially fast but it managed to grab onto several levels of tension. By slowing down the action and avoiding manic, dizzying quick cuts for as much as possible, we had a chance to observe the manner in which the massive truck slithered along the narrow two-lane road as it pursued the mouse-like jeep. The director, Dean Francis, had good timing as to when to place us inside the jeep versus outside of it. Conversely, when the action was stripped away, it remained interesting. I enjoyed the dynamic among the four. For a while, they were allowed to do whatever they felt like they needed to in order to find help and survive. Each of them had a dominating surface personality: Craig was the coolheaded alpha male; Nina was the awkward fourth wheel considering the others were very close friends; Marcus was prone to giving sarcastic remarks given the anger he tried so hard to suppress; and Liz was the tough chick, always on the defensive. The screenplay seemed aware that its characters had something good brewing among them so it was smart to abstain from killing them off for as long as possible. Still, everything connected to that mysterious truck and its containers. We were able to look inside eventually but not enough times that felt sufficient. I wished the writing had been more willing to go to the extremes by being unafraid to introduce really bizarre, ridiculous events, serving as contrast against the beautiful, barren milieu. There were only two or three wide shots that forced us to appreciate the Australia’s unique environment which was a shame. I imagine if “Road Kill” had been much darker, weirder by taking David Cronenberg’s “Naked Lunch” as inspiration, and more efficient with its revelations, it could have been a modern midnight movie favorite.