No Through Road

No Through Road

**1/2

Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

This grisly Australian torture horror ably shows that you don’t need all manner of fiendish contraptions to deliver on the jumps and jolts. There's nothing here that is as gleefully and sickly twisted, or as fully graphic, as in other post-Saw torture porn films. Nevertheless, the most harrowing scenes are assembled with enough effective camera work, composite editing and inventive sound design to be a disturbing watch.

Mild-mannered Richard (James Helm) returns home after spending the day taking photos at the beach. He has art on the walls, orchids on the table and a glass of good red wine at the end of the day. His is a comfy middle-class living, tucked away at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in the heart of suburban Perth. With no through road, of course. It stops there and to get out you have re-tread your steps, re-visit what you had to go through to get there in the first place.

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Richard is awoken from his reserved, enclosed snooze by a strange noise from his bedroom. When he investigates he finds a terrified young woman called Sam (Megan Palinkas) hiding in his wardrobe. She refuses to leave and becomes even more scared when three intimidating men park up outside demanding that she comes out. Confused but moralistic Richard naturally refuses. When the threats lead to real menace he calls an old family friend, Ned (George Shevtson), who may be able help out. From then on things spin violently out of control.

That's the quickly assembled set-up from which everything else follows. It's so stark a concept that the script and performances really clunk and trip initially while the stage is laid out and the dramatis personae are sketched in. It’s a credit to debut director Sam Barrett that his script (jointly penned with Robbie Studsor) then goes to some lengths to flesh out all the characters and it really starts to show its mettle as events progress. The introduction of Ned, although gratingly handled at first, adds dimension to the them-out-there and us-in-here set up while the aggressive flashbacks start to piece the back-story together for us.

As Saw ad finitum, the torture horror franchise, loses ever more of its teeth, No Through Road does make a concerted stab at sewing some contemporary themes into its seams. Admittedly, rather than a needle and thread Barrett uses sword, screwdriver and high-pressurised air but the multi-layered comments are certainly there. Added to the blatant criticism of how rape victims are treated by the judicial system, the offensive and sexualised language makes persistent prods at the modern male Australian psyche, peer pressure and personal weakness. Barrett also marries these to an insidious fear that white self-protecting metro affluence has of the more dynamic personifications of the working class. At its spine, though, is that screenplay stalwart the father-son relationship and the pressure this exerts on the individual.

The fact that director and writer Barrett is playing the thug who subjects Richard to improvised garage-tool torture even introduces a meta-critique of filmmaking. A representation of the cruel sports a director can put a cast through is something with which many actors might well sympathise.

That all said, on occasion the devices used to bring these themes to the fore really bump about when its their time. This doesn’t fit in with the more realist feel and tone that Barrett tries to maintain to keep the situation credible and scary. He shows he has a real talent for creating sustained periods of spiralling tension, so it leaves you disappointed when they’re then undermined.

Although No Through Road is uneven at times it is sufficiently grisly, disturbing and thoroughly gripping at others to be better than most other late joiners to this horror sub-genre. Clearly Barrett is more than ready to move on from his TV commercials background.

Reviewed on: 15 Oct 2008
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A violent nightmare begins when a man finds a terrified woman hiding in his wardrobe.

Director: Sam Barrett

Writer: Sam Barrett, Robbie Studsor

Starring: James Helm, Megan Palinkas, George Shevtsov, Richie Flanagan, Sam Barrett, Keagan Kang, Maynard Inkster, Tim Auty, Rae Barrett, Penelope Andrews, Eddie Stowers, Caleb Helm, Ivan Davidov, Ryan Thomson

Year: 2008

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: Australia

Festivals:

Raindance 2008

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