I love movies like Road Games that seem to toy with you from beginning to end, and yet, sometimes those are the hardest films to discuss in a review because you never want to reveal too much for potential viewers. That being said, writer/director Abner Pastoll does a fantastic job of playing up suspicions throughout Road Games, a film that’s shrouded in a dubious sense of mystery and has a bit of a Hitchcockian sensibility to it as well. Its ending may be a bit divisive to many, but I dug the direction Pastoll goes with his surprising, take-no-prisoners finale.

Road Games follows British hitchhiker Jack (Andrew Simpson) as he makes his way through the sun-soaked countryside in France, traveling with only his passport and doing everything he can to get back home to England after his idyllic vacation goes horribly wrong. Along the way, he crosses paths with fellow hitchhiker Veronique (Joséphine de La Baume) and they decide there’s safety in numbers while traveling, especially since there’s a serial killer on the loose. The duo meets a curious man by the name of Grizard (Frédéric Pierrot) who offers them a ride, a hot meal and the comforts of his home for the night. When they arrive at his estate, Jack and Veronique are greeted by Mary (Barbara Crampton), Grizard’s wife, who clearly has a bit of her own emotional baggage, always looking like she’s on the verge of a breakdown at any moment.

What follows is one of the more awkward dinner parties ever, and an innocent night spent in the company of strangers evolves into a wicked game of cat and mouse, as Jack struggles to figure out just who he can trust and who is ultimately up to no good.

As horror fans, we already know that traveling abroad usually ends up poorly for most folks, and Road Games does a great job of exploring the naiveté that comes with traversing an unfamiliar land and dealing with those you are unable to communicate with effectively. Early on, we learn that Jack isn’t very comfortable with the French language, so when other characters converse with each other, he doesn’t understand most of it and misses out on some crucial information. Those of us watching are given the benefit of subtitles, so at times we’re ahead of the film’s protagonist, as these tidbits of information help us piece together the puzzle that is Pastoll’s intriguing story. It’s a playful touch from Pastoll that keeps the ongoing mystery in Road Games utterly riveting until the very end.

Simpson, who is pretty much a pawn of sorts throughout Road Games, is decent and does a great job of propelling the action and story forward but admittedly, it’s his co-stars who get the chance to dive into some really intriguingly fun parts, especially de La Baume, whose character flitters through most of her scenes without a care in the world. I really enjoyed Pierrot’s performance in Road Games as well and I think the work we see from him, as well as the always-great Crampton, is even better once all the narrative’s secrets are revealed and we get a sense of context for their characters and their motivations.

It’s also worth noting that the cinematography from Eben Bolter in Road Games is absolutely stunning, effectively capturing the vastness of Jack’s travels as he makes his way through the country and immersing us in the lush greenery of various wooded areas, which adds so much to the film’s sense of confusion.

Some may find Road Games a bit convoluted at times, but for me, the story’s perplexing nature is so methodically purposeful that I can’t help but tip my hat to Pastoll, who manages to create an intensely fun and often unsettling cinematic conundrum with his feature film debut. Here’s hoping Road Games is only the beginning for this talented up-and-coming filmmaker.

Movie Score: 4/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.