Roadside Assistance

Directed by Ali Matlock  |  Review by Moumita Deb

Shot on location, using only a spare plot outline, improvised scenes and spontaneous performances, “Roadside Assistance’ takes you in a sweeping grip, even as a forlorn couple attempts to reignite the warmth of their worn out relationship. Traveling down the wild terrain, painful secrets are unearthed, and while remaining trapped further in an uncanny environment, secrets from the past are revealed. Eventually, their plans for vacation are cut short when they encounter car troubles.

The gradually escalating tension threatens to spin out of control. En route in the deep, rude and fearful wilderness, as the couple makes a solitary journey in an attempt to stoop and build up the broken relationship, they opt for one last night of comfort at an isolated country travel.

But confusing signs and a maze of narrow lanes lead them stranded as the night falls. The film subtly exposes the emotional fault lines in the couple’s crumbled relationship. They start to doubt, distrust and blame each other. Only near the end, when the threat becomes more tangible and the plot machinations more forced, does the film shift down a gear, causing the stomach-knotting tension to abate. Tapping into deep-rooted psychological and primal fears, taut direction and the editor’s excellent skills provide maximum suspense in liaising with cinematographer’s multi-camera set-ups.

Under its glossy exterior that claims to be an extreme version, this is a generic and surprisingly tame horror offering. There’s room for suspense here, but it’s hard to generate tension when the viewer can’t figure out what’s going on. Darkness is great when it comes to establishing the atmosphere. It doesn’t take long before it becomes impossible to figure out who’s chasing whom and who’s about to face the wrong end. The path to that conclusion is long and dark to navigate. Irrespective of how the climactic scenes were shot, the movie isn’t ascending to the pinnacle of the mountain of modern cinematic horror. The lengthy setup, which takes about one hour, is suitably ominous – derivative, to be sure, but creepy nonetheless. The characters, variations on a theme, are likable despite their lack of depth.

Director moves into a darker territory – both literally and figuratively. The misty wilderness is filmed with an eye towards menace rather than as scenic destinations. Ali Matlock appears to be more interested in suspense than gore for gore’s sake. There’s some of that, but it’s not gratuitous. Other horror conventions abound. Roadside Assistance is ultimately an awe-inspiring movie. Matlock does a fine job with the film’s scare scenes, simply by emphasizing rustling leaves, flashlight lens flares, and the stranger that actually looks creepy. He’s building up dread with the help of the god forbidden wilderness.

Most impressive is the choice of music and sounds and superimposing them with silence. This created some great scary scenes! Secondly, the dialogues were realistic and that contributed to the emotional and cognitive effect of immersion in the film.
The film achieved a tense and devilish power, leaving you in the dark with those impressive main characters. Efficient and highly effective is its style, relying on sound and creepy production design, this excellent horror creates a sense of pervasive doom.

Why do we get drawn to a movie? For me it’s to be moved, to laugh, to cry, to be frightened, to be in awe, to be amused in a gentle way, which this movie most uncompromisingly meets, fulfilling each level of our expectations.

 

Moumita-Deb

Moumita is a Kolkata based independent filmmaker and film critic. She holds a post- graduation degree in English literature from Jadavpur University. Reading novels of a wide range of authors of all genres from classic to contemporary has always been Moumita’s passion and calling. She also takes a strong liking in playing the Spanish guitar & has participated in quite a few concerts. Moumita has done her certification course in Cinematography, Video Editing and Filmmaking