Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's not always the hitcher who's dangerous

Road Kill (aka "Road-Kill U.S.A.") (1994)
Starring: Sean Bridgers, Andrew Porter, Deanna Perry, Nick Searcy, Jeff Pillars, and Andy Boswell
Director: Tony Elwood
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Josh (Bridger), a naive kid hitchhiking his way to California, is picked up by a couple (Perry and Porter) who are murdering and robbing their way across the United States.

"Road Kill" is a strange movie. I'm not entirely sure what the overall point of it was, but my enjoyment in watching came from guessing when Josh, who must be the most sheltered of sheltered small-town boys, was going to realize there was something seriously wrong with the people he was traveling with. I also got a kick out of the way the film drifts further and further into a reality that exists separate from anywhere else, a place when the mad-dog killers and their clueless passenger can pick up a hitchhiking clown (literally... with balloons, big shoes, and full facepaint) in the middle of nowhere!

I'm hesitant to say much more about the actual content of the film, as it's one of those movies that's best experienced with an unbiased mind... my summary above may even give away a little too much about the flick. Think of it as "The Hitcher" in reverse--the innocent sap is picked up by the maniac instead of the other way around--but with more humor and far stranger. (And with a creepier death scene... one of the victims is murdered by having his nose and mouth super glued shut!)

This is the third movie I've seen by Tony Elwood, and it confirms without a doubt that he is a master of making low-budget movies with nasty edges to them. If you want to see a film that truly embodies the "grindhouse" vibe that everyone was talking about a few years back--and which is being dragged out again in the context of the "I Spit On Your Grave" remake--and you want to make sure you're not subjecting yourself to complete and utter crap, you need to get a copy of this film, the underrated horror classic "Killer" (review here), or Elwood's most recent film "Cold Storage" (review here). He has a great eye for how to set up a scene, and he knows to get the most drama and suspense out of what he has to work with. And in a picture where much of the action is fairly static--there are a lot of conversations in cars and hotel rooms--this is a valuable ability.

"Road Kill" is a quirky thriller that's definately worth a look. The low budget origins of the film are visible at times--there are some issues with sound quality and color correction here and there--but the film offers more than enough excitement and content in other areas to make up for such minor blemishes. With a clever and strange script, a cast of decent actors--Andrew Porter as the psychotic driver Clint, Jeff Pillars as a slimey hotel owner, and Nick Searcy as a clown that I think any of us might want to kill if subjected to him, are especially effective in their roles--and some gruesome death scenes, it's a ride you should take.

For more information on this and other films by Tony Elwood, visit the website for production company Synthetic Fur by clicking here.

Speaking of production companies and distribution, I found it extremely amusing to compare the current DVD cover artwork with the original VHS artwork that distributor API promoted it with. Here they are, side by side.

While I love the sort of art on the right--as anyone who worked with me when I've been in positions to commission artwork for covers and interior illustrations--one has to wonder exactly what movie the artist was painting this image for. While if you squint and turn out head at a sharp angle, you can kinda-sorta see the characters from the film, nothing else in that picture reflects what's in the movie. The big-head photo montage from the DVD release actually captures the mood of the film more accurately. (And, yeah, I used a non-representative picture as the main illo for this article, but that's because I was unable to get any screen captures I liked from the DVD.)


  1. Sounds like a great ride! Heading over to Netflix now...

    ::Cold Storage added to Instant Watch Queue::
    ::Road Kill added to the 'Saved' section::
    ::Killer not available:: out of three ain't bad, I guess.


  2. Swing by and let me know what you thought of the movies.

    And it's a shame about "Killer." It really is a good movie.