You know what’s *not* scary? Birds. The proof is in my hands right now, extra crispy and coated in the Colonel’s secret recipe. Oh, maybe at one stage our ancestors were suitably frightened by creatures with the ability to ascend to the heavens, but I figure that shock and awe got eroded some by the time we reached the Moon. You hear that, Big Bird? STICK THAT IN YOUR FUCKING YELLOW GULLET!
Oh, Hitchcock may have made some scary movie involving birds (its name escapes me right now), but it wasn’t so much the birds themselves as their enormous numbers, their swarming and attacking en masse. Any animal could be substituted and it would still work (“Alfred Hitchcock presents… THE KITTENS! You’ll never LOL again!”). There was Larry Cohen’s Q THE WINGED SERPENT, but this was more dinosaur than bird, and then there was the classic 50s monster movie THE GIANT CLAW, which if it frightened you means you’re ready to print out your I AM A MEGA PUSSY certificate (be sure to ask permission from your parents before using the Grown Up scissors).
The SyFy Channel gets some grief for the quality of its movies, but they’re a lot like the chicken in my hand (or rather, the chicken now in my belly, hah!); it’s not haute cuisine, but it’ll be tasty. You won’t get a 200 million dollar Christopher Nolan blockbuster, but you might get 90 minutes of entertainment. But will ROADKILL be entertaining?
Kate (Kacey Barnfield, LAKE PLACID 3) is traveling around Ireland in an RV with her ex-boyfriend Ryan (Oliver James, WHAT A GIRL WANTS), brother Joel (Colin Maher) and friends Hailey (Eliza Bennett, NANNY McPHEE), hat-wearing asshole Chuck (Diarmuid Noyes, KILLING BONO), Tommy (TV actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) and Anita (Roisin Murphy). After driving into the countryside, the group stop off at one of those tiny roadside gas stations, which if it was in America would have some inbred banjo-player and a two-headed alligator attraction, but here has only local gypsy Luca (Ned Dennehy, TYRANNOSAUR, which strangely enough contains no actual tyrannosaurs). One of the girls sees a medallion around Luca’s neck, and persistently tries to buy it from him, responding to his refusals with, “Everything has a price” (I think Luca could have stopped her if he asked for anal). Luca finally settles at a price, but tries to pull a bait and switch on her (I don’t blame him, really, the girl comes across as arrogant and obnoxious).
The equally obnoxious Chuck (who calls everyone “dude”) grabs the medallion and makes a break for it, but as they drive away in their RV they hit an old one-eyed woman, who puts a curse on the group, telling them that a mythical bird will take vengeance on them, one by one, before she dies. The bird is called the Roc (not The Rock, though that would make for a batshit-crazy film, if the monster was an ex-wrestler turned actor. Or better yet, if the monster is THE ROCK, and each of them is sucked into a crappy Michael Bay flick). Now, the Roc is a giant bird of Middle Eastern mythology, which makes me wonder what it’s doing in Ireland? Couldn’t the old lady have summoned a local monster for this work, like a banshee or the Lucky Charms mascot? Stop this monster outsourcing, sez I!
The group drives off, and sympathy for them drops with me as no one suggests finding the nearest police to report the accident. But then a patch of thick fog in the road means they lose their way, finally stopping when a young boy appears in the road, pointing accusingly at the RV before disappearing. And Anita, who had left the RV to talk to the boy, gets grabbed by the Roc, lifted up and then dropped again, with half of her face mauled off (a quite grisly and realistic-looking shot for a SyFy movie) before the Roc returns and flies away with her.
The group continues on its way, while also finding themselves pursued by Luca, who wants his medallion back, as it protects one from the Roc’s attacks, and is willing to feed them all to the Roc to boot.
First, the positives. The location is novel, making a change from Canada, Hungary or wherever else it’s cheap to film these days. The roads are as just as narrow, winding and scary as shown, though the notion of driving for hours without seeing any houses or villages is bullshit; that might happen deep in Texas or North Dakota, but Ireland’s a tiny little place that would fit in Texas’ back pocket and still have room for the chewing tobacco. The monster’s also novel, though again I wonder why an actual Irish myth wasn’t used (or invented, ala RAWHEAD REX). The CGI is passable, and the practical FX shots, what we see of them, are decent. Director Johannes Roberts (FOREST OF THE DAMNED, HELLBREEDER) offers some good atmospheric shots and keeps the story moving, not wasting too much time on exposition or extended romantic interludes or character development. And the characters who survive towards the end aren’t who I expected. There’s a nice sense of doom hanging over the proceedings.
As for the negatives? The main characters are stupid: never going out in pairs despite everyone saying the Roc only attacks one at a time, or making weapons for themselves, or trusting the murderous Luca not to kill them. The story gets muddled and unnecessary twists are thrown in the mix from nowhere (including a pointless cameo from Stephen Rea (V FOR VENDETTA, INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE) which confuses the issue (so the Roc wasn’t just conjured, but lives out in the woods, and other people who have been cursed can have their curses lifted if they help the Roc with its workload? This is getting a wee bit too complicated for a story about a giant bird!). And I’m sorry, but the bird itself doesn’t look all that scary, but more like a plucked Victoria Beckham (though admittedly that in itself would be frightening).
Still, ROADKILL is an entertaining little way of passing the time. With some chicken. And I love monster movies! It’s available on DVD and probably on VOD too, and the trailer is here.
Director: Johannes Roberts
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien