It’s amazing how many pleasant treats you’ll find on TV Friday nights at one o’clock in the morning. Take “Roadgames” (or “Road Games”) for example: The Hitchcockian story of a trucker delivering meat across Australia who becomes entangled in a possible mystery involving an unapprehensible serial killer who may or may not have murdered a helpless hitchhiker traveling the roads he’s driving on.
Often referred to as “Rear Window” on the road, self-proclaimed Hitchcock enthusiast Richard Franklin has directed a quaint, low-budget thriller with a likable (although quite unusual) lead actor in the role of Frustrated Hero.
Pat Quid (Stacy Keach–who is indeed a man) is driving across Australia in a meat truck when he thinks he’s noticed a strange happening–a man in a van seems to be burying a bag in the middle of a desert in Australia, and when he is noticed he climbs back into his blue van and speeds away into the distance.
Pat puts this event into the back of his mind when he decides against regulations to pick up a wandering hitchhiker named Pam Rushworth (Jamie Lee Curtis), who has run away from home in an effort to escape her famous father’s life. The two bond together on the road and have some fun playing various games–until she is kidnapped by the same strange man in a van. At first, Pat thinks he’s just being paranoid–he even starts to think that Pam left him for the man.
But then he realizes that Pam has indeed been kidnapped, and he suspects that the strange man in the van might be a notorious serial killer who has been killing young women and scattering their body parts miles apart from each other.
After the police offer no help, Pat takes matters into his own hands and sets off on a quest to bring back Pam to safety and apprehend the killer before he can strike again. Some twists and turns ensue, although nothing very surprising.
If this were a mainstream horror film with an overblown budget and big-name actors, I’d probably give “Roadgames” a bad rating. But this is the type of pleasant, likable low-budget thriller that is easy to watch and knows it’s nothing more than a shadow of greater film noir mysteries/thrillers like “Rear Window” or “The Third Man”–the type of film that thrusts its hero on a one-man venture into the heart of darkness in order to find out the truth.
Stacy Keach is strikingly likable as the lonely trucker who talks to his own pet dingo as he drives along, contemplating all types of conspiracy theories about serial killers and mysteries. What could definitely become tiring–listening to a man talk to his dingo for the majority of a movie, that is–actually becomes quite fun. Keach is funny, nice, and just…likable! Too bad his career was put on hold years later after he got arrested for smuggling cocaine…
The director, Richard Franklin, is a huge Hitchcock fan–and it shows. This film is like a sort of remake of “Rear Window” and other such mystery-thrillers. It’s loads of fun and an easy watch. (Trivia note: Franklin directed “Psycho II,” the sequel to Hitchcock’s 1960 classic original.)
I can definitely say that this film is most like “Breakdown,” the Jonathan Mostow movie starring Kurt Russell as a man who loses his wife to a trucker and tries to get her back, even though there seems to be no evidence of her disappearance. But unlike the great “Breakdown,” this film doesn’t wither away in the second half and turn into a disappointing movie–it remains strong throughout, and yes, it has plenty of nods towards Hitchcock. (Check out the magazines Curtis starts sorting through–there he is!)