Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Road Wars – review

Director: Mark Atkins

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

Now, how on earth did I miss this on its release? Probably due to the fact that it looks for all intents and purposes a mockbuster riding on the tailcoats of Mad Max: Fury Road – and it was. But, beyond that it had a huge slice of I Am Legend. In fact, so much so I’ll give a health warning re the review.

Ok, it might be an Asylum production but it had a rather effective twist in the story – which I will spoil due to its I am Legend credentials. I will give fair warning before that happens.

We start with a car in the desert, a gun turret on top it appears (it’s actually a flame thrower), driven by Kevin (Phillip Andre Botello) with Nakada (Chloe Farnworth, Dead Cert) riding shotgun. She doesn’t understand why he has gone this far out, but there is something he is looking for. There is a conversation about love and a snog, the car slows to a stop and there it is… a gas station.

Chloe Farnworth as Nakada

Nakada goes to use the rest room – Kevin passes her a shotgun – he checks inside. There is a body just inside but it is the body further in that proves Kevin’s undoing. He goes to check it and the 'corpse' awakens and bites his hand – he shoots it. Nakada runs out and Kevin is at the pump getting fuel for the car. His hand is bleeding. He tells her to do it and pulls the business end of the shotgun to his chest. She seems reluctant and eventually we hear the shot off camera, then see her burning the gas station down with the flame thrower.

watching the desert

An armoured vehicle sits in the desert. On top of it are Macon (Nikki Bohm) and Dirk (Kelcey Watson). He’s telling her the story of the last snickers when he spots something. A figure in the desert – I told you so, he says, and it is confirmation of a friend of a friend story about daywalkers. He goes to take a shot at the figure and is told one bullet only. He wings him. They drive out but realise it is actually a man (Cole Parker). When he comes round, he has no memory of the apocalypse. Later we discover he is called Thorn.

graffiti: Kill All Vampires

So, we are in a vampire apocalypse and it turns out that, before the fall of the cities, there were people who were bitten but didn’t turn and those people suffered from amnesia. It is assumed, therefore, that he may have antibodies to fight the infection. Their doctor (Jane Hae Kim) doesn’t have equipment to capitalise on that though. The other issues are the fact that night raids by the vampires are getting worse and they are running out of ammo. However their base is ideal as they have fresh water. There are also rival survivors out there. At this point let us look at the vampires.

infected by night

They liken the virus to rabies – even before fully turning, someone with the virus develops hydrophobia, not even able to drink. Once they turn, they quench their thirst with blood and have a strong reaction to sunlight (Nakada hasn’t killed Kevin and we see it is a typical vampire burning reaction). They live to feed and infect essentially. In some respects they are somewhat more like zompires or, perhaps, the dead vampires in I am Legend

So it is here that we go into the major spoiler of the twist
Look away, if you don’t want to know…

Kevin turned

Towards the end of the film they use Thorn’s blood to make a serum and test it on Kevin. The first test is positive, he has lost his sunlight reaction, he is cogent but has lost his memory like those mentioned and Thorn. However, he is still hydrophobic – something we have not had suggested about Thorn. It turns out that Thorn is still infected (deliberately bitten by a daywalker when he was bitten by a normal infected) and this makes the daywalkers like the new society of vampires in I am Legend. The reaction of the uninfected is to turn on them (his sire has found him by then), mirroring Neville in the novel, and there is talk of a society of daywalkers in the city.

Kelcey Watson as Dirk

This was a really nice twist, so, sorry for spoiling but it made the I am Legend aspect crystal clear. As for the film... It misses the high octane of Mad Max (there are desert cars in a post-apoc style but only a little in the way of the road wars the title promises) and apes the costume style mercilessly. The acting is passable but nothing special, but the dialogue does a remarkably good job of world building. Don’t get me wrong, it ain’t the greatest, but it is rather good fun. A Solid 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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