(A.k.a. ROAD KILL)

Two twenty-something couples are in the midst of a travelling camping expedition across the splendid Australian countryside. We first meet them as Craig (Bob Morley) noisily fucks his girlfriend Nina (Sophie Lowe), while Marcus (Xavier Samuel) and his respective filly Liz (Georgina Haig) listen in involuntarily from their neighbouring tent.

The following morning, Craig and Nina remain frisky with one another while Marcus and Liz continue to be putout by their friends' sex-based relationship. Jealous? A little. Their relationship has hit the skids, thanks to Liz's recent infidelity.

All of that pales into insignificance when the foursome set off for their next camping destination, only to spy a road train approaching their car from behind. What's a road train? It's essentially a monster truck that is hauling several huge trailers - imagine the beast that Mel Gibson commands in the finale to MAD MAX 2, only longer.

These naive kids are quite excited by its presence at first, as the boys tell their girlfriends how invigorating it feels when a road train overtakes your car and nearly blows you off the road.

What's it like when one of them accelerates and smashes into the back of your vehicle, knocking you off the road and injuring your driver (Craig)? A bit shitty, by the looks of things.

But that's what happens here. Patching up Craig's bad arm, the other three then begin to fret over their knackered car and the prospect of being left to starve on the deserted highway before them.

Marcus and Liz wander along the road for a short while and happen upon the titular monster parked up, seemingly abandoned. The other couple catch them up and the four of them realise the truck is empty. It's at that point that they hear gunshots aimed in their direction, and they hastily board the road train and drive away.

Quickly reaching a roadblock consisting of a mountain of ill-placed rubble, the pals begin to wonder whether something beyond their comprehension is conspiring against them. Ever resourceful though, Marcus and Liz agree to hike some more and look for a solution while Nina tends to the recovering Craig.

The action sags a little at this point, as Marcus and Liz thrash out their differences while Craig and Nina get closer, back at the truck. The point of this sequence though, is to separate Liz from Marcus when the pair fall out in the middle of nowhere.

Now the group are more vulnerable than ever. Lost, remote and lacking in water. The only one with any real balls is injured. So it's time to up the ante and fuck things up a little more ...

Written by Briton Clive Hopkins and directed by Dean Francis (a former actor in "Neighbours"!), this Australian production is initially overly familiar but does, thankfully, distance itself from the likes of ROADKILL (a.k.a. JOY RIDE - the enjoyable 2001 John Dahl film) or even Mark Tonderai's HUSH from 2009. It does this by proffering the suggestion of an unexpected supernatural element. But saying anymore about that would constitute providing spoilers, I'm afraid.

With its small cast, simple premise and reliance on the readily available outback - natural lighting, beautiful local settings, all that - ROAD TRAIN is an economic thriller that can outstretch its low-budget origins thanks to the aforementioned gorgeous landscapes and the keen cinematography of Carl Robertson.

Dramatically, the film begins quietly enough but takes the consistent approach in gradually building towards a high-octane second half that, once the sparse production values have been established, does a decent job of running with an unfussy tension that holds the attention.

The twist is a decent one, and the performances are strong throughout. The film looks the business and, although it's never scary, a palatable atmosphere of desperation is neared. Credit must certainly go to Rafael May's brilliant score for helping towards achieving the latter.

ROAD TRAIN is no DUEL, granted. It's not even as guiltily enjoyable as THE CAR, but - terrible title aside (it is the film's original title) - it's a well-made, modest and unpretentious little film that manages to pass 86 minutes in an agreeable manner.

The film looks fantastic in a crisp, clean and bright 2.35:1 presentation. The transfer is anamorphically enhanced and looks marvellous, particularly during the many day scenes where detail and contrast are remarkable.

English audio comes in a robust, equally balanced 2.0 mix that is just as clean as the picture.

The main menu page is colourful, replicating the DVD cover art, but static. The scene-selection menu page is also static, and offers access to the film via 8 chapters.

Extras begin with a 13-minute Making Of featurette which offers a mix of studio-produced cast and crew soundbites, interspersed with clips from the film. Consequently, it's presented in different aspect ratios and a little self-congratulatory (Francis states "I think you're going to be on the edge of your seat the entire time". Er, not quite, mate). There's also a modicum of interesting behind-the-scenes footage thrown in for good measure, making this a decent accompaniment to the main feature.

Next up are 5 deleted scenes which can either be watched individually or as a whole by selecting the "Play All" option. The exclusion of these scenes from the main feature doesn't harm it any.

Finally, we're treated to the film's original trailer. This is 2 minutes in length and plays out in anamorphic 2.35:1. It looks as lovely as the film.

ROAD TRAIN does indeed look beautiful. It's not the most remarkable horror film that the 21st Century has so far spawned - not by a long shot - but it's highly watchable nevertheless.

The extras are small but decent, the presentation is great. In short, Elevation have provided a most efficient disc for Francis' sleeper horror film.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Elevation Sales
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review