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Thursday, August 4, 2011

ROADKILL -- DVD review by porfle

One of the most fun movies named "Roadkill" that I've seen since they started making movies named "Roadkill", ROADKILL (2011) is the rare example of a SyFy Channel movie with a CGI monster that doesn't totally suck.  It's as though my TV suddenly had a "fun" knob that I was able to turn up after the opening scenes heralded imminent boredom.

With some of the most excruciatingly obvious expository dialogue imaginable, we learn that Kate (Kacey Barnfield) has moved to Ireland to work and her American friends have joined her there for one last reunion vacation.  This includes old flame Ryan (Oliver James), best friend Anita (Roisin Murphy), med-school brother Joel (Colin Maher), clownish nerd Chuck (Diarmuid Noyes), not-so-best-friend Hailey (Eliza Bennett), and token black guy Tommy (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith), who, no kidding, says "Yo, yo, I'm down wit dat" in his first scene.

Of course, we want all of these people to die horribly as soon as they open their mouths, which looks like a pretty good prospect when their motor home pulls up in front of an isolated store that looks like something out of "The Irish Chain Saw Massacre."  Anita wants to purchase a necklace worn by an inbred yokel named Luca (a very effective Ned Dennehy), and after a dispute the kids make off with it, running over an old gypsy woman in the process.  Before she dies, she puts a curse on them--one by one, they will all be snatched away by a giant mythical bird, which, needless to say, threatens to put a damper on their vacation.

After a stupid beginning, this Irish backwoods stuff actually starts creating some ominous atmosphere, especially when the fleeing youngsters get hopelessly lost in a creeping fog and start hearing scraping sounds on the roof of their van.  Not only that, but the stock characters start acting kind of like real people and we begin to slightly care about them.  It isn't long before we see the massive Roc dive-bombing at them with its giant claws outstretched, and surprisingly, the CGI is pretty good.  Then we get our first shockingly gory death scene, and it's a humdinger.

Now I'm enjoying ROADKILL instead of dreading it.  The kids run into all sorts of trouble including a flat tire that somebody's gonna have to go out there and fix, the usual lack of cell phone functionality (didn't see that coming, did ya?), and the serial reappearance of an increasingly hostile Luca along with his yokel brethren.  It turns out that Luca needs that necklace as a talisman to ward off the Roc, whom he also appeases by staking out hapless passersby as sacrificial bird food.  Drina (Eve Macklin), Luca's really hot sister or cousin or whatever (I don't think it really matters), also gets into the act with a sawed-off shotgun, heightening my interest level to an unhealthy degree.

The rest of the film manages to keep the tension pretty taut with several scenes of suspense and a few character moments that are unexpectedly resonant.  Performances seem to improve as the situation gets more frantic, and the fact that nobody's safe from the rampaging Roc keeps us on edge.  Stephen Rea (THE CRYING GAME) even shows up at one point as a local cop who isn't quite as helpful as he should be.  The ending, far-fetched as it is, puts a satisfying capper on the whole thing.

The DVD from Vivendi Entertainment is in widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound.  There are no extras or subtitles.

Don't get me wrong--ROADKILL isn't some kind of wonderful flick and I'm not guaranteeing that you'll love it.  It's just that when my expectations are so low, being surprisingly entertained by a movie like this tends to make me regard it rather fondly.  And as far as these SyFy Channel monster-of-the-week potboilers go, it Rocs. 

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