Plot: What’s it about?
Pat Quaid (Stacy Keach) is driving a semi across the roads of Australia, which should be a peaceful, serene trek. The countryside is beautiful and all things considered, it should be a smooth and pleasant drive. As he travels, he sees many of the same other drivers time and again, as well as various hitchhikers. Since the roads don’t veer much off the same course, he thinks nothing of these repeated sightings, at least not at first. Even so, his mind begins to wander after so many hours behind the wheel, so he plays little games to pass the time. He’ll see a new driver out on the road and create an entire past for those inside the vehicle. This enables his mind to remain sharp and focused, but at the same time, take a break from the monotonous travel. He even picks up hitchhikers from time to time, including a beautiful young woman named Pamela Rushworth (Jamie Lee Curtis). Pamela prefers to be known as Hitch, since she spends so much time out on the roads, trying to find a ride from place to place. When she is missing from the roadside however, Pat’s game of analyzing those around him becomes all too real. A rash of murders has taken place and Hitch fits the killer’s prey demands, so he is convinced she is in extreme danger. But when he takes action to find her, he might land himself in the line of fire…
I want to start this review off by making it crystal clear, Road Games is not a brutal slasher, though the cover artwork might make it seem as such. No, this Australian import from director Richard Franklin (Patrick, Psycho II) has little in the way of blood & guts, though it provides suspense and tension in ample doses. I’ve seen countless films with the same basic premise, bad news for a beautiful young hitchhiker, but Road Games is by no means a carbon clone. The material is solid, but the writing often glosses over plot points and can lose direction at times. Even so, those flaws are more than balanced out by the effective direction of Franklin, which keeps Road Games on track. The atmosphere is excellent in this picture, between the genuine tension and isolated location, both of which add a lot to the film’s impact. In a thriller you need thrills, so the thick atmosphere found in Road Games is important, to be sure. The movie is very well shot also, so the visuals add to the eerie texture of the material. If Franklin would have eased up much, Road Games would have lost steam and been a mediocre project, but he held the reins and came through. Jamie Lee Curtis and Stacy Keach head up a solid cast, which provides some nice performances. So if you’re a fan of thrillers, then Road Games is more than recommended.
Jamie Lee Curtis has found immense success in mainstream cinema, but she has also been in numerous genre pictures. Curtis has been seen in several horror movies, science fiction flicks, and yes, even dark suspense thrillers. And unlike most famous actresses in these kind of movies, Curtis always sells her role and hands in terrific work. So don’t assume that just because this is a low budget genre film, that she sleepwalks through her performance. In Road Games, she is up to her usual solid watermark and brings a lot to the picture. Her role here is quite similar to her character in John Carpenter’s The Fog, but only at first and rest assured, she infuses enough freshness so as not to clone her own work. So this movie didn’t mark a new standard for her work, but she is in fine form and does all she is asked. She fits in well with the whole thriller atmosphere, but then again, we knew she could do that with ease. Other films with Curtis include Halloween, Blue Steel, Trading Places, Prom Night, Terror Train, and Forever Young. The cast also includes Stacy Keach (The Duellists, Mountain of the Cannibal God), Marion Edward (Blue Fire Lady, The Wild Duck), and Grant Page (Mr. Nice Guy, The Love Epidemic).
Video: How does it look?
Road Games is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. As per usual, Anchor Bay is able to deliver a terrific visual effort, even on this little seen picture. The print is quite clean, with only minor grain evident and minimal nicks & defects. Some of the darker scenes display a thicker level of grain, but even then, the visuals don’t suffer. I did notice some color fades, but this seems intentional in most cases, so no reason for concern. The hues have a washed out appearance, but that is part of the visual scheme, not a flaw with this treatment. I was very pleased with the contrast here, as black levels are crisp and rich, though the grain does lessen things a shade or two, but only in the darkest of sequences. So in the end, we have yet another superb visual presentation from Anchor Bay, who deserve some serious praise.
Audio: How does it sound?
All I wanted here was a clean, crisp soundtrack without any kind of serious defects, which is what has been supplied. I heard little in the way of hiss or distortion, while screams and other high pitched effects never suffer either, another positive note. The music sounds on the thin side, but that’s to be expected, while sound effects are effective, but never rise much beyond acceptable, so don’t expect too much. But dialogue is crisp and clean throughout, with no volume or clarity issues to raise in the least. Of course, the Australian accents make a few lines hard to decipher, but on the whole, this presentation is top notch.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary kicks us off, as director Richard Franklin sits down to share his memories of Road Games. He is joined by moderator Perry Martin, who keeps Franklin on task and ensures the session never slows. This proves to be a great session too, as Franklin has a lot of insights to reveal about the production. This disc also includes some cast & crew interviews, poster & still photos, talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer.