The second full length feature of South African director Abner Pastoll is a far cry from the family comedy TV series he’s spent the past few years directing. The 95 minute thriller starts off channeling the same type of ominous tone that makes films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel dark and creepy, but somewhere along the way tension stops building and it becomes evident that the payoff may never really be coming.
There is no violent crescendo or surprising reveal. There is no powerful finale. There is no punch to the gut. However, there are two reasons that the film is definitely worth your consideration: the cinematography and Barbara Crampton.
First and foremost, the film is simply gorgeous. Every shot is perfectly framed. Every shot is beautiful. For as plodding and formulaic as the film becomes after the first (and strongest) act of the film, it never loses its beauty. The shots of the characters interacting, the shots of the countryside, everything about the cinematography demonstrates the obvious strength of Pastoll’s work.
The cast, for all intents and purposes, is strong. The young protagonists, Jack (Andrew Simpson) and Véronique (Joséphine de La Baume), are worthy of being invested in. The script is pretty strong in developing these two lead characters and the young actors truly deliver nuanced and interesting performances. The two have great chemistry, as well. With as strong as the leads are, the highlight of the cast is “scream queen” Barbara Crampton.
Throughout the bulk of the film, it seems that Crampton won’t get the chance to show off her chops, but we do get to see a bit more of her on screen presence later in the film. All said and done, she’s still as gorgeous as the days of Chopping Mall, and she’s still go that “it” factor that made so many horror fans fall for her 30 years ago.
What Road Games does best is show off that Pastoll, who not only directed the film but also wrote it, has a eye for how to shoot a great looking film and has the writing chops to develop characters. What it, unfortunately, also does is make a case that Pastoll should try his hand in other genres, namely films with less thriller/horror themes. The film’s inability to maintain its tension and tone lends itself to the idea that Pastoll could better utilize his writing and directing talents in the drama and romance genres.
The film is worth a watch, even if it’s just one. The strength of the actors and the film’s beautiful scenes showcase the potential of a young filmmaker who has yet to find his cinematic voice.