Written and directed by Abner Pastoll (His second feature length film.) Road Games follows the journey of English hitchhiker Jack (Andrew Simpson). The young Brit is making his way from Nice to Calais to catch a ferry back home. He rescues Véronique (Joséphine de La Baume) from a driver who is arguing with her and the two agree to team up.
After a long wait for a ride, a car stops. The French girl is reluctant to get in but eventually joins Jack in the car. The driver; Grizard (Frédéric Pierrot) is a bit odd but friendly. He invites the two back to his house where, he says, his wife Mary (Barbara Crampton) will cook them a meal.
Back at the family home, which is an immense mansion, the hitchhikers get settled in and clean up for dinner. Jack learns that yet another strike is taking place at Calais so he will have to wait to catch a ferry back to England.
Grizard tells Jack earlier that Mary is English as well, but the woman is really from America originally. The older couple act bizarrely and at one point Mary tells Jack to lock his door at night.
At dinner, they all talk about the hitchhiker murderer; a serial killer who is quite famous around that area. Véronique calls the infamous murderer a “serious” killer. The atmosphere in the house is strained and weird.
At one point Jack tells the group that he is a vegetarian. Grizard reacts poorly to this news and calls the young Englishman a “Homme-Lette.” (Which seems to be slang for gay…)
Things get strange and after Jack spends the night with Véronique, the young French hitchhiker goes missing. Grizard tells Jack that she left without him.
Road Games is slow but methodical in its build up of suspense. The moment that the two hitchhikers meet up with Grizard and his wife Mary the tension sets in and never leaves. There are some satisfying, and surprising, twists in this French/UK thriller.
The cast is an intimate affair. There are only four main characters and French actor Féodor Atkine is Delacroix; a road kill collector who is much more than he seems. He is the fourth piece in this well put together puzzle.
Pastoll has delivered a film that has the audience asking questions right up until the end. (Pay attention to the closing credits, as there is a hint of something to come.) A very satisfying film that delivers an impressive tale where the choice of serial killer changes constantly.
Set in the gorgeous countryside of France, with what appears to be a few shots of Kent, the film looks brilliant. The film was shot in both countries and while Kent could have been interior scenes, there are some bits of countryside that look decidedly English.
While the film hits all its marks, keeping the audience second-guessing until the very end, there is one sequence that is confusing. At one point the two hitchhikers flee and grab an car. Before leaving the enormous house, Véronique grabs a set of car keys.
The two head to a heretofore unseen car and use it to drive away. As the film continues this mystery seemingly sorts itself out but not quite.
If there is one bone of contention, it is Grizard’s overwhelming verbal outburst toward the end of the film. It really did drag the scene out that bit too long.
This is a 5 star film full stop. Clever, suspenseful and really entertaining. Leaving out the serial killer slant the film and its characters are all quirky and odd enough to make some to the scenes nigh on unbearable to watch. Pastoll’s lack of music in some sequences adds to the sense of uneasiness.
The cast all do very well in their respective roles and it was nice to see Re-Animator actress Crampton again after her recent appearance in We Are Still Here. Irish actor Andrew Simpson does very well in his role of hapless traveler Jack. The French cast really sell their characters and this small group work very well together indeed.
Road Games is streaming on Netflix and is also available on Amazon. At just over 90 minutes the film is worth the time spent watching, just for that final plot twist alone. Pop some corn and grab a coke, this is a good one.
(Note the film does utilize subtitles extensively. It is, after all, set in France.)