Stars: Brody Barcellona, Christina R Gregg, Ryan Knudson, Caitlin Carmichael, Warren Fast, Trenton Hudson, Danielle Harris, William Childress | Written and Directed by Warren Fast
Roadkill opens with a boy (Brody Barcellona; When Sharks Attack) getting some food from a refrigerator and sharing it with a cute dog. That doesn’t sit well with his mother (Christina R Gregg; Cosmic Sin, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) who chases the boy back to the dog house where he lives telling him “That’s gonna cost you”. In the morning we see just what it cost as he wakes to his mother giggling over the dog with several butcher knives sticking out of it.
The film moves forward to the summer of 1983 and the boy has grown and is now a drifter referred to in the credits as The Hitchhiker (Ryan Knudson; The Final Trial of Billy the Kid, 30 Seconds in Hell). He crosses paths with The Driver (Caitlin Carmichael; Midnight in the Switchgrass, Martyrs), a young woman with a big muscle car who offers him a ride in return for directions since they’re both heading to Abbeville. He says he wants to get there by tomorrow for his mother’s birthday.
As if this isn’t sinister enough, it looks like the serial killer known as the Highway Hunter has started killing again. That has Sheriff Teagan (Warren Fast; Catching Junior Tate, Geostorm) and Deputy Vernon (Trenton Hudson; My Friend Dahmer, Dead Hand) even more suspicious of strangers than usual.
Warren Fast wrote and directed Roadkill as well as playing the sheriff, and according to the film’s press release wanted to make a film that was a throwback to the films of the 80s. The influence is noticeable, but there also seems to be a lot from the 70s as well with the redneck cops, drug-induced psychedelic sequence, etc. That’s not a bad thing, that decade produced some great low-budget thrillers and incorporating some of their elements helps the film.
What doesn’t help is the film’s lack of mystery or suspense. By fifteen minutes into Roadkill the viewer has a good idea who the killer is. By thirty we’ve seen them in action and know their motive. Given both leads could easily be guilty, it would have made more sense to keep the viewers guessing until the final act. Not only would it have built the suspense, the reveal would have fit perfectly with everything else that happens then.
While the characters aren’t well developed, the performers at least make them believable enough to make Roadkill’s plot work. Carmichael carries many of the scenes as the outgoing, talkative Driver. Knudson as her taciturn passenger provides an implied threat with his presence and his knife. Danielle Harris (Redwood Massacre: Annihilation, Between the Darkness) unfortunately only has a pair of scenes as a waitress in a diner. Sharp-eyed viewers may recognize the cook she trades barbs with as William Childress from Detroit Driller Killer and 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot (#1 Will Blow Your Mind).
The small cast and low budget keep the body count down and frequently keep the kills off-screen. The effects are limited to the corpses of a few victims and the odd stabbing or shooting. The film’s one explosion is, thankfully, also a practical effect and not computer-generated. I have to wonder what filmmakers are thinking when they say they’re making a retro film and then fill the screen with CGI blood spray, explosions, etc.
Despite its flaws, Roadkill manages to rise above most of the films in its budget range and deliver a nice dose of action. While it may give too much away at points it does have a few surprises, some of them shocking, in reserve.
Uncork’d Entertainment will release Roadkill to theaters in New York City, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis as well as to Digital Platforms on January 5th.