Roadkill is another release from Maneater films, in cooperation with the SyFy channel. If you’ve seen any of the other Maneater flicks, you pretty much know what you’re in for as far as production values go. This film though, was directed by Johannes Roberts. If you are not familiar with his name, he is responsible for the atmospheric slasher film F, which if you have not seen, I suggest you find a way to do so. That’s a discussion for another day though. The question at hand is, can a Maneater/SyFy film be helped by a talented director? The answer is yes and no.
The story is your standard friends on a road trip tale. A group of friends are traveling across Ireland in a dingy, borrowed recreational vehicle. A quick stop for gas and some mingling with the locals leads to an incident that causes a group of gypsies to want to cause harm to our merry travelers. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, but just for good measure, they’ve thrown in a poorly animated, mythical, killer bird in for good measures. We’re not talking Birdemic poorly animated, but it’s pretty bad.
Thankfully, Roberts’ style bleeds through into the film, and it turns an otherwise forgettable Saturday night SyFy film, into an almost forgettable film with some fairly remarkable cinematography. The atmosphere that is created by Roberts is much more inspired than one would expect, having not been familiar with the director before popping in an innocent Maneater film. A creepy mood is created, though it may be lost any time the killer bird appears on screen.
The characters are all 2D, none sticking out anymore than the rest. All of the basic clichés are covered. There’s the jock/love interest, the geek, the hot single friend that the geek is secretly in love with, the token black guy. None of them are ever built up enough for you to care whether or not they live or die, so they pretty much serve their intended purpose as good looking cannon fodder.
Unfortunately, Roadkill doesn’t even come close to living up to the hope that F built up for further output from this director. It does manage to be a cut above the rest though, as far as this type of film is concerned. It is good to see Roberts not only finding additional work, but apparently having fun doing so. Roberts was recently being considered as the director for the Poltergeist remake. He wasn’t chosen, which is sad, because he could have brought much needed atmosphere to that project. I don’t particularly like to see directors of which I am a fan, going on to do remakes, but a gig as high profile as that one would be, would certainly have jump-started his career.
If you’re a fan of the Maneater films, you’ll probably find something to like about Roadkill. It’s above average for what it is, and I had fun watching it. It’s not ridiculously over-the-top like some of the recent entries into the series, but it’s silly enough to play well to that audience. Think of it as a SyFy film, with a little bit of subtlety, rather than a constant slap to the face with a trout to remind you of the punchline.