Director: Scott Fitzpatrick
Year of release: 2012/2013
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 83 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "Out here, you're on your own".
Also known as: The Texas Roadside Massacre
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: A group of five friends are driving through a quiet mountain town on their way to visiting a beauty spot when they have to stop for petrol/gas at a local garage. Here they are persuaded to sample the cuisine at a nearby eatery, The Rib Shack Restaurant which is seen as the town’s crown jewel. The friends are surprised to find the restaurant staff to be acting in a weird manner in the sense that they come across as drugged up zombies. Things become even more strange when one of the group Karen identifies one of said weird staff members as a dead ringer for her sister who went missing in the region some time before. Later when trying to leave the friends are stopped in their tracks when their vehicle breaks down leaving them stranded in town. Staying at a motel while waiting for the car to be fixed they run into another guest who like Karen claims that he also has a missing sibling last seen in the area. Deciding something fishy is going on they decide to investigate the Rib Shack Restaurant which appears to be at the heart of the trouble.
Good points: *In several ways this is similar to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in fact the British DVD title is “The Texas Roadside Massacre” so if you’re a big fan of that classic and the franchise as a whole then you might get a kick out of this homage. The main things which draw comparisons to the Tobe Hooper film are the characters of the garage and restaurant owners respectively who are clearly based on and inspired by the Cook/Drayton character.
The family themes with the antagonists are similar as well in that though we have one main killer there are also some other connected villains in the shape of family members.
Though he looks nothing like him visually the main killer here is also in the Leatherface mould in terms of his place in the family and how he is treated. In addition I felt as if the town sheriff was possibly based on the law enforcement officer in both the remake of TCM and The Beginning.
Spoiler: Lastly the cannibalistic elements of TCM are also here with victims being served up in this case as part of the meals in the restaurant.
Small spoiler again: There is a slight touch of originality however with the whole zombie lobotomised aspect to things with the restaurant staff which takes it away from Texas Chainsaw homage territory. Not that we haven’t seen this kind of thing before but it isn’t exactly common either so this added something a little bit different.
On one hand these similarities may anger some viewers who just see it as a rip off but at the same time there may be a lot of hardcore TCM fans who would appreciate a homage type film. It’s kind of what Offerings is to Halloween or The Gingerdead Man to Child’s Play.
*The killer is a big guy bothy in terms of height and weight. Due to this he is physically imposing and has a presence to him. Sadly he doesn’t have a mask though his face is fairly creepy looking and coupled with his size just about keeps things afloat in this area. Minor spoiler: He could have done with a little but more backstory as the way things were I wasn’t sure if he was just a little slow or had actually been purposely lobotomised by his family in the same way as the restaurant staff to turn him into a tool/thrall. Though not a great killer by any means I’d say he just about cuts the mustard so we could have done a lot worse.
*I found some of the characters to be somewhat likeable or at least good fun to watch at times. The garage owner in particular stood out. I think the actor behind that character did a very credible job and I also enjoyed the antics of the Tommy, Gus and Courtney characters. Overall I would rate the acting as being a smidgen better than it usually is in these type of very low budget affairs.
Bad Points: *There was too much music in the film early on that annoyingly had a bad habit of playing over the dialogue. As there was no option for subtitles on the DVD release it was very difficult to hear what was being said during these instances. Thankfully this problem did go away after a while so it was only a nuisance during some of the early scenes.
*I thought the restaurant staff were handled in a bit of an unrealistic manner as they were too noticeably abnormal in the way they moved/spoke and I think they would attract too much attention if actually serving out of town customers who may be passing through. Maybe they should just have had them working behind the scenes and then one of the main group stumbles upon them by accident, going into the kitchen by mistake when looking for the toilet for example. Big spoiler: It was particularly unrealistic at the end when the Karen character was tasked with serving in the restaurant when covered in cuts and bruises, surely that would have aroused suspicion.
*The film is very tame with hardly any blood and guts on display at all. As such all the deaths are boring more than anything and instantly forgettable.
*We never see any of the locals other than the three villains and the sheriff. Perhaps it was supposed to be a totally deserted town like in the House of Wax remake but if so it didn’t make that clear plus there were a lot of cars outside the restaurant at the end , probably too many of them to just belong to tourists so presumably they belonged to locals as well but we never saw them. I found this to be unrealistic and it drew attention to the low budget.
There were a couple of other things that didn’t really add up. I was left wondering why Courtney wanted to drag Tommy off to outside the restaurant to have sex when they already had a room at the motel.
Similarly there was another part where the Vince character inexplicably leaves Karen alone when going to check the road. They could have just checked it together and then there didn’t seem to be much reason for Karen to freak out which prompted her to run off further from Vince. Wouldn’t she run towards Vince if she was scared? Just some examples of lazy writing I guess but it goes to show that a little more effort was required with the script.
Verdict: On one hand this is a decent little homage piece to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it may appeal to big fans of said film and franchise but at the same time the similarities will cause others to dismiss this as a cheap knock off. Despite the familiarity there is a little more effort put into the story and characters in this one than other low budget slashers I could name. Its far from perfect but not without some small redeeming qualities. It’s let down some-what by a complete lack of special effects for the deaths and some unrealistic bits but the acting is decent enough for the most part and the killer acceptable.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Tommy: Attacked in doorway and killed off camera. Possibly a severed body part of Tommy’s may have been seen in a freezer later on by Courtney.
2)Courtney: Severely incapacitated by being locked in a freezer and then stabbed as Vince attempted to rescue her.
3)Nick: Can’t recall exactly how he died but attacked when going off with Gus at night time to get help. Just stabbed or hacked up most likely.
4)Gus: Killed in the back of a pick up truck. Killed with a cleaver or big knife of some kind. Body later discovered by Karen.
5)Owner of restaurant (Jimmy?): Repeatedly struck with an axe. Killed by Karen.