Road Games (2015) DVD Review

Road Games (1)ROAD GAMES (2015)

Director/Writer: Abner Pastoll

Cast: Andrew Simpson, Josephine de La Baume, Frederic Pierrot, Barbara Crampton

Running Time: 95 mins

UK DVD Release: 29th August 2016 from Icon & Frightfest Presents

A killer is on the loose in the French countryside. Jack (Simpson) and Veronique (de La Baume) are two hitchhikers who come across one another after Veronique’s lift goes badly wrong. A friendship is forged as they figure safety in numbers is better than travelling solo and then they meet Grizard (Pierrot). He agrees to give them a lift and provide hospitality at his country mansion but on arrival and after meeting his wife, Mary (Crampton), all is not quite as it appears.

Not to be mistaken as a remake of the Australian 1981 thriller, Road Games is a British-French co-production, executive produced by Crampton and directed by Pastoll who has previously directed short films and the thriller Shooting Shona (2004). The script is a mixture of French and English so subsequently subtitles are frequent and at times Jack’s lack of French vocabulary is used to moderately suspenseful effect. The cinematography by Eben Bolton follows the general rules of the horror genre with dusty, dimly-lit rooms littered with creepy art pieces plus several aerial shots early on in the story help convey just how isolated the characters are from seeking help when events take a darker aspect in the finale.

Road Games (2)Pastoll’s feature is competently made but sadly it suffers from a complete lack of any real tension. We have a lot of scenes of Jack and Veronique wandering around country lanes attempting to hitch lifts early on and very little actually happens until the final half-hour. Once the narrative moves location to the mansion, even then Pastoll fails to ignite any real sense of dread. For example, a mildly unsettling dinner scene where Crampton acts increasingly unhinged is neutered by an extremely odd tone and very sad to report, some rather bad acting.

Also, a scene involving a local farmer, whom may or may not have something to do with the murders, hints at a homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre but the film never runs with it and instead the viewer is left recalling a far scarier film. Daniel Elms’ music direction also needs mentioning as frequently it does not match the tone of the narrative and as such becomes very overbearing during sinister moments when perhaps silence may have better served the scene.

Road Games (3)Pastoll has stated his feature owes much to And Soon The Darkness (1970), another thriller which is similarly set in the French countryside but is about the disappearance of a young female cyclist. It also reminded this reviewer of Haute Tension (2003) but only very briefly and any recollections of that film were instantly quashed by an unintentionally comedic scene involving a hay bale. It is evident why Frightfest have championed this film considering its cast and storyline but after the excellent We Are Still Here (2015), it is sad to report that it is a minor misstep for Crampton and one which might be best forgotten by her legion of fans. Similarly, Pierrot has done better work on TV (Les Revenants) and Simpson fared better in last year’s, The Survivalist.

Road Games is not a film worth thumbing a lift for.

Rated: 4/10

Kiss of The Damned (2012) DVD Review

KISS 001KISS OF THE DAMNED (2012) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Josephine de La Baume, Roxane Mesquida, Milo Ventimiglia, Michael Rapaport

Written by: Xan Cassavetes

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £14.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 95 minutes

Directed by: Xan Cassavetes

UK Release Date: 27th January 2014

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with vampire movies. Growing up I was spellbound by the terrifying glare of Bela Lugosi in the classic Universal Horrors, while The Lost Boys (1987) came out when I was ten and proved to be a defining movie in my adolescence. Meanwhile I have to confess Blade (1998) didn’t really get me all that excited, nor did Underworld (2003) and the dawn of a new century just seemed to bring with it a slew of ‘rent-a-vampire’ movies (The Forsaken, The Breed) that seemed to offer little in originality.

More recently however there has been a wave of independent filmmakers attempting bring something new to this tired strand of the horror genre. From the superb Swedish film Let The Right One In (2008), through to Stake Land (2010) and Midnight Son (2011) the vampire movie is indeed in the midst of a renaissance – dare I say almost in rebellion to the vapid commercialism of the Twilight franchise?

KISS 002Kiss of the Damned piques the interest first and foremost as in the director’s chair is none other than Xan Cassavetes, daughter of John, who is shooting her first full length feature. We open to an exterior shot of a sizeable property by the side of a lake. In it, we see Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) watching De Sica’s Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953). She appears to be besotted by film as soon after we witness her taking a trip to her local video store to return a stack of movies which is where she first sets eyes on Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia). After a brief drink they retreat back to Djuna’s palatial house where after engaging in some Luis Bunuel (who wouldn’t want to date this woman!) things become intimate, at which point Djuna stops and decides the night is over.

The following day Paolo finds he can’t get Djuma out of his head and attempts to see her. A telephone call to her house is deflected by the housekeeper, while a personal visit leads to a passionate kiss on the doorstep resulting the spilling of blood. Djuma feels she has no other choice but to inform Paolo of her vampirism – which he of course scoffs at, until that us she chains herself to the bed with the intention of transforming before him. Paolo remains besotted, so much so he unshackles her so they can make love and in the process the inevitable happens, Djuma sinks her teeth into Paolo’s neck. This union of raw passion and desire is about to encounter a problem though in the shape of Djuma’s sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) who decides to call over and stay for a week. She’s wild, a little out of control and the exact antithesis to her sister – and she is about to cause trouble.

The overriding feature of Kiss of the Damned is undoubtedly class. It’s directed by someone with an overt appreciation of film-making whose passion for film history is to be found in every scene. With two smouldering French actresses for the leads, the Euro-connection doesn’t cease there as the films influence undoubtedly has a tip of the hat towards masters such as Rollin, Argento and even Polanski.

KISS 003This is a vampire film for people who appreciate the medium and have spent the last few years in utter despair at the dilution of the term ‘vampire’ into a tween-pleasing fetish towards asexual beings with Barbie and Ken genitalia. Kiss of the Damned oozes sexuality, but plays with it in a subtle manner while its eclectic soundtrack dominates the film, bursting through every scene perforating the celluloid yet conversely remains in the background. Xan Cassavetes film really is a pleasure to digest from beginning to end and demands to be sought out by horror aficionados.

8 out of 10

Extras:

Audio commentary with director Xan Cassavetes

Cast and crew interviews