31 Days of Slashers: Road Games (1981)

The fifteenth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Richard Franklin’s Road Games. Patrick Quid is driving a large shipment of pigs across the Australian wilderness. On the road, he stops at a hotel for the night and sees a man checking in with a female hitchhiker. The next morning, his dingo begins sniffing the garbage outside the hotel. After picking up more of his shipment, he finds out that the hitchhiker had been murdered at the hotel. He ends up on a wild chase following the killer’s creepy van, but the police start thinking Patrick may be involved in the murder, as well. He pairs up with Pamela “Hitch” (Jamie Lee Curtis), a hitchhiker that he picks up. Will they be able to catch the killer? Or will Patrick and “Hitch” be the killer’s latest victims?

The main draw of this film is Stacey Keach. His performance, which is primarily just him isolated in the cab of his truck for great chunks of the film, is actually quite complex. Keach’s Patrick runs between comedy, intensity, and genuine emotion. He also has a really fun rapport with the dingo that he travels with. And we’ve come to another exciting chapter in Jamie Lee Curtis’s early horror career. She gives a great deal of humanity and drama into her character that really proves to enhance Patrick’s character while on this violent quest.

The mystery surrounding the killer of the film proves to be quite creepy, actually. While most slashers don’t actually creep me out, the killer in Road Games actually managed to spook me a bit. I particularly loved the intensity when Patrick and “Hitch” investigate the killer’s van. The suspense as “Hitch” is searching the van, while Patrick is keeping the killer distracted in the bathroom, is quite intense. It’s nice to have a killer in a slasher film that you don’t really get to see as they commit their murders.

Franklin does a really great job of utilizing the Australian landscapes to truly convey the isolation that truck drivers feel on long journeys. Matching the repetitive wilderness with the bursts of violence by the killer makes for a perfect distraction for Patrick as he gets bored on his long drive. The threat of nature, a great factor in Australian horror films of the time, is constantly present, as well. If something were to happen to Patrick’s truck, he would just be stuck in the middle of nowhere. This adds an engaging level of intensity to the film that definitely separates it from other slasher films of the time where the characters are just in suburban neighborhoods or on college campuses.

Through it’s solid performances, the mystery of the killer, and the use of the Australian wilderness as such a threatening force, Road Games proves to be a really engaging slasher that should definitely be a part of your Halloween viewings this month!

Road Games is currently available to rent on Vudu, Amazon, iTunes, Youtube, and Google Play. You can buy the Shout! Factory blu-ray, which features an excellent restoration and special features, HERE.

I’ll be back again tomorrow with another great entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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