Four young friends (Sophie Lowe, Xavier Samuel, Georgina Haig, Rob Morley) go outback camping and are having a good time until a giant road train bullies them off the road. Stranded with a wrecked car, they approach the truck which has pulled up down the road, only to find the driver gone. They soon hear shots and a crazed figure (David Argue) in the distance running towards them with a gun. They jump in and fumble the truck into gear and drive off. What they don't know is that the deadly menace is still with them.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Like Steven Spielberg did with Duel, Dean Francis makes his feature debut with a story that pits a giant, anonymous rig against smaller road fare - but there the similarity ends. The romance of the open road and the giant road trains that cross the Australian outback is twisted into a terror ordeal for four youngsters out for a break. Nothing too original in the concept, but this is the genre. Francis adds a mystical element, and while that's a good creative idea, it isn't carried off with enough assurance to satisfy and ends up mystifying us instead. Still, it's a twist.
Above all, the music and the engineered soundscape are the primary drivers of the rig and the film: composer Rafael May has used every instrument he could lay his hands on (including his front gate as a percussive tool) to create an ominous signature for the road train itself, and Francis has encouraged him (and the sound mixers) to beef up the sound, which does most of the work of messing with our minds. Anyone over about 35 won't be too thrilled ...
All the same, Francis deserves credit for tackling the genre that has served well as a calling card for new filmmakers (eg Wolf Creek). And while not as clearly told, Road Train is a strong story and offers plenty of visually exciting imagery, which are well exploited.
Performances are all tops, with Sophie Lowe leading an ensemble cast fully committed to take this work seriously.
The script is well developed, adding a layer of tension as sexual betrayal threatens to break down the friendships and relationships. But there are tricky little moments that require a bit more surgery to cover certain scenes. The story gets a bit bogged down between the mystical and the horrors within the containers on the giant road train, which dilutes the impact of both elements.
But fans of the genre will find some highlights in the gore department, while truckies will no doubt latch onto some of the trade's unique characteristics, such as the three headed dog mascot that adorns the hood, and which seems to be the source of the mysterious power hiding in the road train from hell.
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ROAD TRAIN (MA)
CAST: Sophie Lowe, Xavier Samuel, Georgina Haig, Rob Morley, David Argue
PRODUCER: Michael Robertson
DIRECTOR: Dean Francis
SCRIPT: Clive Hopkins
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Carl Robertson
EDITOR: Rodrigo Balart
MUSIC: Rafael May
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ian Jobson
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Pinnacle Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Adelaide: October 21, 2010