Roadside (Movie Review)

Roadside (Movie Review)
3 10

PLOT: A young couple heading home for the holidays becomes unceremoniously trapped along a desolate wooded road by a hidden maniac lurking in the trees.

REVIEW: Whoa now! It's hard to believe that the same dude who promulgated the rather infectious zombie-STD joint CONTRACTED a couple years back, writer/director Eric England, could return to deliver a movie so ill-conceived in ROADSIDE that you might just, ironically, prefer a blistering case of herpes over suffering through this one. Alas, ROADSIDE is that atrociously fallow. That inept. Actually, since it was produced way back in 2013, I would not at all be surprised if England wrote (if not made) this one before he did CONTRACTED. At least, I hope that's the case, for if not, if ROADSIDE truly resulted from a natural progression of a budding filmmaker (as the release would indicate), this is a massively disappointing step backwards. Hell, even if you told me ROADSIDE was England's very first script, essayed prior to his 2010 feature debut HOSTILE ENCOUNTER, it's still inexcusably subpar.

In what amounts to a not-so-thrilling three-hander in obvious echo of much better movies like JOYRIDE, DEAD END and WINDCHILL - ROADSIDE picks up during Christmastime, where we meet the embittered pregnant couple Dan and Mindy Summers en route to his sister's house for the holidays. We instantly sense some tension among the two, Mindy is a moody nag who seems unhappy with everything Dan does. And Dan just wears the invective like an emasculated sap. Fun times. As the two drive through a wintery stretch of desolate back-roads, a portentous stop at a gas station, replete with shady backwoodsmen, serves as the main refuge away from the rest of the films action: two people held hostage in a car by an invisible captor. That's right, upon resuming their course through the woods, a roadblock suddenly forces the couple to halt in the middle of nowhere. They're then greeted by a maniacal madman who has setup giant speakers in the trees and, while remaining unseen, points a rifle and orders the couple to do as he instructs. Which, again, is largely to remain in the car and never attempt escape.

But that Dan does, if only for a few moments. I'd argue he'd rather be shot in the face than have to listen to another grating syllable out of his wifey's mouth, but damn if we aren't so lucky. Dan (Ace Marrero) makes his way out of the car and feverishly negotiates with the sadistic gunner (Jack E. Curenton), stalling, buying time, doing all he can to protect his loathsome wife (Katie Stegeman) and more likely his unborn child. But the flick, like the car itself in a way, stalls out and eventually breaks down by the half hour mark, and soon becomes a tiresome barrage of one predictable genre tenet after another. Stolid dialogue, inert action, and flat, unappealing characters is what we are left spending the bulk of the movies 73 minute runtime with. How thrilling.

You know, I've actually heard the hallowed "Hitchcock" word bandied about in regards to this film. Hitchcock? Please, more like a hot load of poppycock! Seriously, ROADSIDE is a half-baked, low-budget bore full of overplayed conventions and ridiculous thriller clich├ęs we've all seen many times over. At no point past the first 30 minutes does the flick enthrall or entertain enough to warrant anything close to evoking the Master of Suspense. Talk about blasphemy. No, this flick is far more in line with Cohen and Schumacher of PHONE BOOTH fame, albeit far cheaper and with much fewer resources at its disposal. It wants to be that kind of single-setting, hostage-high-wire act, but here, any bona fide tension the film draws early on (and I do stress ANY), quickly droops to the ground until there's nowhere to go but downward.

Which, again, is a head-scratching shame of sorts when considering England's CONTRACTED, a flick that succeeded as a character-based allegory of sexual virus. Hell, even his 2011 slasher effort MADISON COUNTY, also starring Marrero and Stegeman, looks better and better in comparison to this one. But making movies with friends at such high frequency can only take you so far I suppose, and sadly, this quickly becomes one familiar and worn out ROADSIDE of well covered territory. The script is threadbare, the action is too spare, the three main characters aren't very appealing, and together, it all equates to a paltry sum of predictable pabulum. Really, don't even bother to stop off and peer along this ROADSIDE, there's absolutely nothing to see here. Keep on truckin'!

Extra Tidbit: ROADSIDE hits DVD and VOD Tuesday, April 14th.
Source: AITH



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