I don't know much about the particulars of camera mechanics, but I'd imagine that cinematographers aren't too jazzed when a director tells them they'll be overseeing a bunch of "highway footage". The tough work pays off well for the viewer, though. Tracking shots, in general, are pleasing to the mind and eye: smooth, fluid, horizontal, seamless. But add to that the high speeds of the open road and they can become as close as you get on Earth to a genuine space ride.
Spielberg's Duel is the obvious touchstone here when it comes to technical savvy (Sugarland Express has impressive road shots as well), but rarely has a highway adventure film given us a character so robustly entertaining as Roadgames' Pat Quid. In a note perfect performance from Stacey Keach, Quid is an expatriate Australian truck driver who talks to his dog, murmurs bad puns, eats lots of celery, and loves poetry. It sounds like a goof of a character, and it could've been had someone miscast a Clive Owen type in the role, but Keach is suave, sardonic, and sweet; a big-hearted eighteen-wheeler.
Escaping a barely touched-on past in America, Quid sits in his captain's chair like a perched bird observing the paved world beneath him. Kids in Kiss make-up, station wagons hauling sports equipment, hitchhikers, a Just Married couple pulling a "Parenthood", and... a serial killer? A guitar-playing serial killer who uses guitar strings to strangle his victims? Yeah, the plot to Roadgames ain't much, but credit the visual gags of Richard Franklin and the sharp-tongued dialogue of Everett De Roche for making a near genre masterwork out of these simple pieces.
Jamie Lee Curtis shows up midway as a 19 year-old runaway ("I walked away", she tells Quid) that's introduced as a sort of Ricky Shroeder type sidekick but quickly which evolves into a forbidden buddy/love interest for Quid once he realizes she's able keep up with his verbal wit and references. (It's easy to think you're the smartest man in the room when your only competition is an obedient dog!) But a high-budget movie this unique can't stay that way forever, and Roadgames soon falls in line with conventional thriller tropes. Luckily, Franklin and De Roche are sharp enough to roll with it and insert original frights of their own, including an excellent killer reveal and a gonzo kangaroo moment that rivals Large Marge's climactic appearance in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.
It's funny, I love watching horror/thriller movies, but I never get oiled-up over them like many of my friends do this time of year. (Call me old-fashioned, but Christmas is the holiday where I like to break out the classics, such as the John Lithgow/Dudley Moore/Burgess Meredith masterpiece Santa Claus : The Movie). However, I strongly urge everyone that's read this far down to go out and rent Roadgames before next Friday. And if you DON'T like it, I will watch one of your lame recommendations as a refund. I mean, do you really wanna watch Halloween for the 29th time? I mean, that movie's approaching It's A Wonderful Life-type status in the holiday overkill department!
Roadgames in '08! It's the right choice