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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Roadkill" -- Whacked Out Fun in Spine Chillers Episode 2

"ROADKILL"
Length:  16:07
Company:  Tres Hombres Productions
Website:  Official Website

A WHOLE LOT TO PROVE

Last week, I reviewed "Sorry I Couldn't Make It" -- the first episode of the new Spine Chillers web series -- and found it to be an extremely flawed piece of work, not at all suitable for a legitimate horror series.  Will episode number two, "Roadkill", be more of the same or will it actually chill some spines?

No time like the present, friends . . .

THEY DON'T MAKE 'EM LIKE THEY USED TO

"Roadkill" follows Steve (Robert J. Gordinier), long suffering employee of Critter Catchers -- a company that gets rid of those irritating pests that sneak into your house and kill your pets.  Steve's boss, John (played with just a pinch of well placed arrogance by Christopher Dinnan), tells him to head out to the country and check on a Critter Catchers trap that has been torn apart. 

This episode is written and directed by Paul Harris, hombre numero dos of Tres Hombres Productions.  He brings a much needed breath of fresh air to the series after hombre numero uno, indie film writer/director Josh Becker, left me cold in the first installment.  Harris brings some directing style to the table, bringing in some frankly audacious shots coming from a project so obviously low budget.  There are "aside" shots, not unlike the whacky black and white and negative shots in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses.  There are slow zooms on display that instantly bring a little bit of retro charm to the film.


It's little touches like these that help make a movie more interesting to watch, particularly when dealing with such familiar territory, story-wise.

"Roadkill" is based on a true story -- one I'd like I hear, frankly -- though you'd never know it by the presentation of the material.  Harris' direction, the dialogue and particulary Carol Ilku as Ms. Barton (also known as the Redneck Lady -- to me, anyway) are all gleefully irreverent, and somehow it all works its way into an oddball stew that is enjoyable for the sixteen minutes of running time.

A BLAST FROM THE PAST

There are little sprinkles of retro here and there in "Roadkill".  One of the most noticeable is the off the wall soundtrack.  I know that Joseph LoDuca provided some music, but the credits attribute the original score to Gino Minchelle.  Whoever actually wrote the music, they hit it out of the park.  It's a whacky, pseudo disco soundtrack somewhat reminiscent of a Lucio Fulci flick.  The presentation of the monster reminds me of Fulci as well, as Harris throws this beast IN YOUR FACE, regardless of how ridiculously fake it might look.  Take it or leave it, he seems to be saying. 

At face value, the monster (named "Sawtooth" in the credits, for rather obvious reasons) looks like something that a stoned Jim Henson would have come up with, and it is never, ever scary by any means, but . . . it took some guts to put this thing on camera, or to even suppose that it could be done right with such a limited budget. 

And speaking of Sawtooth, his look made me draw inevitable conclusions to Critters

In other words, you've seen it all before.  That fact could've killed this film, but fortunately . . .

SAWTOOTH TAKES ONE FOR THE TEAM

"Roadkill" doesn't take itself seriously, not for a moment, and its gleeful, gutsy approach to otherwise ludicrous material keeps its head above water.  The acting is all around head and shoulders better than the first Spine Chillers episode -- everyone is credible here.

The only unbelievable moment of the story is that, in my opinion, a point blank gunshot to the face should have done more damage.  In addition, some of the night shots toward the end of the picture were just too dark to see right in, and the red eyes on the side of the road was somewhat uninspired.

CONCLUSION

So what's the final word on "Roadkill"?  Well, it shows a production company starting to get its act together.  After the disappointing "Sorry I Couldn't Make It", "Roadkill" is a surprisingly enjoyable romp of a film that never takes itself seriously, and frankly, it doesn't give a damn.

There's something fun to be had in the madness of this film. 

Now then, does it belong on a web series named Spine Chillers?  Not really.  It's not scary, it's not really horror.  It is based on a true story, but doesn't go for a documentarian or "realistic" presentation of the material, so the whole "Oh God, this really HAPPENED?!" thing doesn't affect me much.

That being said, I will watch this one again with the family.  And be sure to watch through the credits.  There is a laugh out loud moment when Sawtooth finally strikes that has to be seen to be believed.
 
Overall Scores:

Writing: 2 / 5.  The story doesn't cover much ground, and the opening monologue that Steven's listening to on the radio strikes me as too on-the-nose.  The screenplay gets characters from point A to point B, and that's about it.
Directing: 3 / 5.  I liked how writer/director Paul Harris keeps the camera moving and makes shots that are interesting enough to hold our attention.  The dark scenes at the end are hard to see, which is a shame because I couldn't help but think I was missing out on what would otherwise have been a pretty cool shot.  Some of the stuff he attempts here -- particularly when Steve discovers the wrecked trap -- is pretty out there, but he delivers a solid and well played show.  He lets the camera linger over Sawtooth, even when perhaps it shouldn't, but I liked how he is basically saying, "Take it or leave it."  The viewer can do with these images what he or she will.
Editing: 3 / 5.  Christopher Dinnan's editing makes the movie flow well, and he helps Harris deliver on those audacious shots I spoke of earlier.
Sound/Music: 3.5 / 5.  The music was weird, but it worked because of its perhaps unintentional references to older horror movies.  Did LoDuca play a part in the soundtrack?  I don't know, but the music definitely helped lift "Roadkill" overall.
Acting: 3 / 5.  Christopher Dinnan is completely believable as John, the boss who only cares about business.  Steve's played by Robert J. Gardinier, who I've never seen before, but he puts on a pretty good show.  He could've been more freaked out in my opinion during the car battle, but that's just me being picky.  Carol Ilku steals the show with her ridiculous and funny bit part.  Sawtooth is fairly emotive, an impressive feat considering the limited budget.

Final Grade: 3.  "Roadkill" is not a bad second episode.  It's by far the most enjoyable of the series, and definitely the most ambitious.  The vibe of the film and the many risks that Paul Harris takes over the course of the film to deliver something of worth ultimately pay off in a funny, Critters-Lite film.  I look forward to seeing the next episode!

To watch the full length film and get in touch with Tres Hombres, check out their official website and YouTube channel!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!