Getting into a stranger’s car has been ill-advised in movies for decades. That doesn’t stop the two hitchers in Abner Pastoll’s “Road Games” from getting into the wrong Peugeot.
But their predicament comes to feel less chilling than mildly confusing, and a little disappointing, as this halting thriller goes through its paces.
Jack (Andrew Simpson) and his companion, Véronique (Joséphine de La Baume), bond after failing to find safe rides in the French countryside. Then an outgoing eccentric (Frédéric Pierrot) picks up the pair and insists on taking them home to his chateau for a night’s rest. There, he crosses the line from oddball to creep, while his wife (Barbara Crampton, a favorite of horror director Stuart Gordon) has a Boo Radley air, looking permanently spooked and pale.
Pastoll encourages us to let our suspicions float freely over everyone (and keeps it a little ambiguous as to whether Jack, who speaks English, understands all the French he hears). Yet the house’s horrors — weird attic rooms and a weirder neighbor — simply bring in aspects of other, routine thrillers. The cast doesn’t quite succeed in keeping the suspense fresh throughout the story’s left turns.
Country-road helicopter shots, a synthesizer barrage and the presence of Crampton all advertise the director’s fondness for 1980s American movies. But he isn’t able to resurrect the pop pleasures of that decade’s enthusiastic schlock.
(At Screenland Crossroads.)
Not rated. Time: 1:35.
In English and French with subtitles.