Dan and Mindy are trekking home for the holidays. They immediately encounter some minor setbacks, but nothing can prepare them for the hell that is in store for them. A very pregnant Mindy and husband Dan are about to become the mice in a sadistic game of cat and mouse.
The concept is vaguely reminiscent of The Hitcher. But, in no way does Roadside try to impersonate The Hitcher. The script delivers plenty of scares and sees the film’s leads in constant peril. It’s easy to identify with Dan and Mindy. Like The Hitcher, Roadside is highly unnerving. The film is taut and filled with suspense.
The opening credits appear to pay homage to one of my favorite films, North by Northwest. And, I found that appropriate since Roadside delivers Hitchcock-esque suspense. Clocking in at around 82 minutes, Roadside is shorter than most horror fare, but it wastes no time getting started. It is short and to the point; there is no unnecessary filler. Roadside simultaneously delivers character development and suspense. It packs a big punch in to its short running time.
Katie Stegeman is excellent as Mindy. She is cynical, yet immediately likable. Katie has a wry sense of humor that will be relatable to most viewers. She has some great snarky dialogue (“God, I hope your sister doesn’t make that awful ham.”).
Ace Marrero’s portrayal of Dan is relatable in an every man kind of way. I found myself liking Dan, almost immediately.
Dan and Mindy seem like a real couple. They reminded me of people that I actually know. Their characters are flawed, but relatable. They are instantly easy to warm up to.
Roadside is well scored. From the first frame, the score contributes to the mounting sense of tension the viewer feels. That building sense of unease does not let up until the final frame rolls. Even the end credits have something to offer. Viewers who stick around to watch the credits will see an inventive look at what may have happened after the shocking final scene of the film.
In addition to The Hitcher, Roadside is also reminiscent of films like Frozen, in its utter simplicity. Some of the same things that worked for Frozen work for Roadside. The fact that most of the film is confined to a single shooting location really amplifies the tension the viewer feels.
Pitting the couple against an adversary that we actually see very little of was a wise move. It plays on the viewer’s imagination and fear of the unknown.
Roadside is written and directed by Eric England who previously helmed Madison County. Roadside shows notable growth over Madison County. It seems that England learned what did and did not work in his last feature film and applied it to this more polished project. With Roadside, England proves that you don’t have to have a big budget to make a good film.
My chief complaint with Roadside is that, at certain points, the dialogue between Dan and the villain felt a bit peculiar. It wasn’t bad enough to distract me from enjoying the film, but there were a couple of times where their interactions felt awkward. In addition to that, the production value is a bit rough around the edges, but Roadside more than makes up for it by keeping the viewer focused on its multiple strengths.
The violence is very understated, but well done. The effects are good. The filmmakers seem to know that leaving some things to our imagination is much scarier than showing us a slow motion shot of a head exploding.
The ending was perfect. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it. I will leave it at that, because to give anything more than that away would be a disservice to potential viewers of the film.
Roadside is poised to hit the festival circuit and is making its world premiere at Cinemayhem, which takes place March 2nd and 3rd. We will keep you up to date as more details about the film’s release become available.