GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
Directed by Alexander Whitrow.
Starring Alexander Whitrow, Robert Bell, Sarah Milde, Edward Boyd, Erik Strauts, Julie Quick.
Action/Thriller, Australia, 93 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Digital platforms via Reel 2 Reel Films on 29th May 2023.
The Australian Outback has always provided an atmospheric and effective canvas upon which genre filmmakers to paint their works. From the high-octane thrills of MAD MAX 2 to the creeping dread of WAKE IN FRIGHT and onto the wild slasher playground of WOLF CREEK, the sparse Australian desert has a unique vibe where you don’t need to really do a lot to create something unnerving that will get under your skin.
This is just as well for Alexander Whitrow, the writer, director, and star of ROADKILL, where he plays Connor Shelby, a modern-day highwayman roaming the desert highways waiting for unsuspecting victims to rob. He does this by pretending his car has broken down and flags passers-by down for help, pulling a gun on them, taking their valuables, and leaving their keys for them to collect further on up the road, enabling him to get away.
Obviously, Connor is not a model citizen, but we learn early on that he isn’t a killer; he shoots his gun to deafen one victim, he shoots another in the leg but lets him live, and when one victim thinks he is going to harm her baby, he hands the infant over and allows them to collect their car keys later on. However, the local police are on the hunt for a serial killer who has been operating in the area. Connor becomes the chief suspect when the uncle of his girlfriend Lucy (Sarah Milde) – who also happens to be the detective leading the serial killer case – becomes suspicious after one of Connor’s victims identifies a car that looks very similar to Connor’s. Lucy is unaware of her boyfriend’s activities. She thinks he is working hard to pay for them to leave their current life behind and move somewhere else. Still, after Connor unwittingly robs the serial killer (Edward Boyd) on a deserted road, their plans drastically change as the psychopath and Detective Ernest (Erik Strauts) close in.
What sticks out the most about ROADKILL – apart from the omnipresent setting – is that it feels like it will be used as a calling card for something better later. A calling card because Alexander Whitrow clearly has an eye for framing and shooting – although if you can’t make something beautiful and menacing out of the Outback, then you probably don’t deserve to own a camera – and the main premise of ROADKILL is a great one that certainly makes for intrigue. However, to bring a certain vision to life, you need a budget and, more importantly, better performances than the local am-dram-level audition pieces that nearly every actor in ROADKILL gives, the exception being Edward Boyd as the killer, who manages to be intense and charismatic without needing to do very much, although his character does need his mythology fleshing out as the few scraps we are given may as well have not been included for all the good they do.
By contrast, Erik Strauts as Detective Ernest and Robin Bell as his sergeant Detective Albert are likeable enough presences, but their line deliveries sound like a script read-through that Alexander Whitrow happened to catch on camera. Whitrow himself is bland as an actor, not being convincing as a bad boy or exuding nearly enough charisma to make him sympathetic when he needs it. The other side's players merely do their bit without being memorable. However, the killer does pick a target to follow along the highway whose wholesome character is more endearing than any of the people we’re supposed to be following. His and his passenger’s fate adds a higher level of threat to proceedings which makes the final act a lot more engaging.
But terrible acting aside, ROADKILL is a solid low-budget thriller that shows potential for Alexander Whitrow as a filmmaker if he can get a bigger budget to work with and perhaps let other people do some of the work as the director, writer, actor, editor and producer would stretch anybody thin. However, all credit to him for getting the film made and released. A strong story that is well-shot and has a decent level of tension and excitement in the third act, ROADKILL is let down by shoddy performances and an unexciting script. Still, for a streaming rental, it does the job better than most indie thrillers, you’ll find as you scroll through, and hopefully promises better things to come for its creators.
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans