Thrillers are always interesting. Everything relies on suspense and the attempt to keep the audience engrossed and wanting to see the puzzle come together right in front of them. Some work and some don’t, that’s just a fact that comes with the territory. It’s all about WANTING to take a journey with the film’s characters, and thankfully, Eric England’s ROADSIDE is just that kind of film, one that makes you want to keep watching to find out what will happen, and succeeding at being a good thriller (and story in general) at the same time.
Revolving around Dan and Mindy Summers (Ace Marrero and Katie Stegeman), a couple driving alongside some very cold conditions, ROADSIDE does a good job of letting its viewers know that their protagonists are already on shaky ground, with hints that the husband might be cheating on the wife and the wife showing no respect towards the husband whatsoever. It’s that setup that allows us as viewers to go along with the couple on what is already a set of problems, way before the film’s antagonist comes in the form of a man with a rifle. Whoever the shooter is puts the couple through hell, making them stranded during a storm, with the threat of being shot if they move or call for help.
Bypassing the typical gore and fast-cut style of a lot of today’s horror, ROADSIDE plays out more like a film that Alfred Hitchcock would have been interested in making, with the film’s suspense being the key factor. We’re not particularly in love with our two leads during the beginning of the film, but when they’re put into peril and do everything they can to help each other, their true colors come out, and they become people you can get on board with. Marrero and Stegeman both do an excellent job selling the couple’s turmoil and fractured relationship, and it’s entertaining to see their performance change a little throughout the film.
The film is not without its faults though, with the shooter’s voice coming from off screen and sounding like the Ghostface character from SCREAM. It’s an interesting choice, to have such an almost game show-like announcer voice threaten the film’s couple, and it almost pulls you out of the film each time the shooter talks. With that being said though, England’s ability to grow as a filmmaker with each film is evident with ROADSIDE. Though recently released, the film was made in between MADISON COUNTY and CONTRACTED, and if you watch each film in the order that they were made, it shows that England is a director who gets stronger with each film he makes.
Like a home invasion film set in a snowy, well…road side, ROADSIDE is a very tense and entertaining film, led by two great performances and proof that a good horror/thriller film can be told without tons of blood and guts, that suspense is just as entertaining.