As horror fans, we cringe at how characters in these films can find themselves in such perilous situations. I generally avoid the lake that teenagers are killed at every year. I don’t wander into a house that people go missing at often. And it’s not just horror fans that notice this. One of the funniest commercials I saw last year was Geico’s “It’s what you do” advertisement where a group of teenagers keeps making “wrong” decisions in a horror movie.
Horror seems to be shifting away from these standard plots and going to a place even scarier than ones found at 1428 Elm Street: reality. The Babadook gave us an up close look at mental illness. Found explores what it’s like knowing a serial killer…and loving him. One of the scariest films I’ve ever seen in my life was The Strangers.
It’s from this mold that Roadside was made. In the film, a young couple are traveling to see family during the holiday season. On an isolated highway, they are stopped by a downed tree. Before they can turn back, the couple is held hostage by an anonymous gunman playing in the shadows. Roadside is written and directed by Eric England and stars Ace Marrero and Katie Stegeman.
Roadside is a very effective and believable film. While some may claim that it may take an offensive akin to one from the movie The Purge to get in their house, we have all and do find ourselves on a lonely isolated road at night. It’s this simplicity that drew me further into the trap, and is such a an effective concept that (according to its star Stegeman) it was actually tried by a man who came to visit the set. (Check out the full interview below. She talks about it around the 4:50 mark.)
Throughout the film, the couple is pushed to the limits by the gunman. When they should be holding onto each other, you can see cracks in the foundation of their relationship. It seems that Dan (Marrero) has something going on the side with his assistant, and Mindy (Stegeman) can be quite controlling. Mysteriously, the gunman seems to be aware of this divide and pours salt into the wound. Dan is forced to stand outside (in freezing temperatures) while Mindy is told to stay in the car.
I guess there’s an analogy there about how a couple can face adversity united from different fronts, but that might be reading too much into the story. Ultimately, it’s reminiscent of movies like Grand Piano and Phone Booth in its dialogue and tone. Brad Douglas is the voice that directs the couple and does a fine job chameleoning his identity, motives, and plan. Dan is a very arrogant man who likes to be in charge, and the voice takes great pleasure in directing him.
Roadside is out on VOD April 17, 2015. It’s not scary in a horror movie way. It’s scary in a realistic way. It’s the type of film that crawls right below your skin and sets there (waiting) until you find yourself alone at night and driving down a road praying you have enough gas to make it home.