FEAR THE SKIES!
A ROAD TRIP THEY WILL NEVER FORGET
Roadkill is the third entry in the Maneater Series to be released by Vivendi Entertainment this year, preceded by Behemoth and Ferocious Planet, both of which I've also reviewed for DVD Talk. Before each of the prior two reviews, I've provided an update on the line - in case anyone out there is a fan of the series. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon your point of view), there's not much to report for the immediate future of this series of repurposed SyFy Channel creature features. Malibu Shark Attack, a previously announced title, seems to have gone MIA from Vivendi - and the only upcoming title I could find in a brief Internet search is the sixth volume of a Triple Feature series that collects previously released films. It looks like Roadkill may have to satisfy your low budget CG-animated Maneater mayhem fix for the time being.
Speaking of that film, I should start by saying that I've generally been accepting of the entries in this series. Vivendi's DVDs are always bare bones, and the movies themselves sport iffy CG effects and formula-heavy plots - but they're typically diverting enough to warrant a Rent It recommendation nonetheless. This type of movie is a guilty pleasure, in other words, but a pleasure anyway.
Roadkill, however, just didn't work for me. It was shot in Ireland - and, yes, it takes great advantage of Irish landscapes throughout the film's narrative. That's the film's only real strong suit, though. I'll get to what I think is the movie's central problem in a moment. First, here's a little context. Roadkill follows a group of annoying college-aged early 20-somethings as they embark on a trip in a giant RV through Ireland's countryside. Ryan (Oliver James) and Kate (Kacey Barnfield) used to have a thing for each other long ago - they even still own matching bracelets with each other's names on them - and so a lot of early speculation amongst the maneater fodder . . . I mean secondary characters . . . occurs about whether they still share romantic feelings. The intrepid gang soon runs afoul of local gypsies(?) and a dispute over a bracelet leads the gang to inadvertently running over a fortune telling gypsy who then curses them. Soon, a Simuroc, a dumb-looking CG-animated turkey vulture bird of prey thing chases their RV down, disables it by blowing out a tire, and starts offing the teens one at a time.
I would've liked this movie (despite that hackneyed plot summarized above) had it stuck with that plot. Roadkill would've been reminiscent of Jeepers Creepers 2 with Ireland substituting for whichever cornfield state Victor Salva's sequel was set in. However, screenwriter Rick Suvalle jimmies a secondary plot involving a backwoods-style killer a la Wolf Creek or Eden Lake. Here, it's the evil gypsies who aren't happy about the murder - but aren't exactly altruistic in any case. The protagonists run afoul of them several times, leading to shotgun blasts and other "torture porn" shenanigans. It's an interesting idea, and other Maneater films have semi-successfully mashed up genres before. But, films like Wolf Creek and Eden Lake work because they're unencumbered by the censorial demands of commercial television cable stations. Roadkill, unfortunately, is hamstrung in its inability to create grisly hard R / unrated menace, and thus the premise cannot be fully realized. Not to mention the fact that the subplot takes attention away from the titular Maneater creature. The competing plot lines just don't gel together, and the entire film suffers because of it.
Before I conclude, I guess I should remark that Roadkill stars Stephen Rea, who has appeared in such successful fare as The Crying Game and V for Vendetta. "Stars" is kind of a strong word, though, because he's barely in the film - and his character almost seems like an afterthought. If you're interested in this movie because of him, just move right along. Also, don't get too comfortable with the cast of characters; the best of them die early in the movie. The most photogenic of the bunch, Anita (Roison Murphy), gets bumped right away - another fault this film commits. Anita deserved to make it to the second reel at least.
So yeah, I don't often do this when reviewing SyFy monster flicks, but I'm going to say "Skip It" to Roadkill. I agree with Paul Mavis's savaging of Grizzly Rage - that's still the worst ever entry in the Maneater Series, but Roadkill isn't much of an improvement.
Vivendi Entertainment gives Roadkill an anamorphic widescreen presentation that it claims "preserve[s] the aspect ratio of its original television exhibition." The image quality was fairly strong - with the Irish landscapes coming across in sharp detail.
The lone audio track is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 affair. Dialogue is always clear - and the sound effects have enough of an oomph in bass to satisfy.
Neither optional subtitle nor language tracks are available.
Trailers for Behemoth and Ferocious Planet precede the main menu. And that's it for extras; the only options in the menu system are Play and Scene Selection.
Roadkill takes full advantage of its Irish countryside location, but little else works in this SyFy Channel Maneater Series entry that unsuccessfully tries to merge the creature feature template with the backwoods killer genre. Skip it.