Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: No Through Road

By Mike Everleth ⋅ September 17, 2008

Movie poster featuring bloody man holding a sword

Directed by Sam Barrett, No Through Road is an effectively nasty revenge thriller in the Straw Dogs vein. Except that it takes place on a dead end suburban Australian road; the mild-mannered guy, Richard (James Helm), who is forced to do some very violent things is a photographer; and the woman, Samantha (Megan Palinkas), who gets raped is a stranger who has broken into Richard’s home.

The plot of the film kicks in very quickly. It’s immediately established that Richard would rather view the world through a camera lens than confront it directly. Then, he finds Samantha hiding in his closet and a menacing dude named Chas (played by director Barrett) knocks on the door wishing to “speak” with the absolutely terrified young woman.

So, the tension begins almost automatically. Plus, in addition to Chas, we meet his two similarly menacing partners (Richie Flanagan, Keagan Kang) who want Samantha, too, all for unknown reasons. Well, they give one, but it’s not a reason worth believing. And Samantha’s rape story? That could be B-S for all we know as well.

Of course, in a real-life situation like this, any normal person would just call the cops first thing and be done with it. Plus, in modern cell-phone-carrying times like these, the “villain-rips-out-the-outside-phone-wire” trick doesn’t work anymore. No Through Road does take care of this tricky situation fairly realistically. With the conflicting stories being bandied about and Samantha’s desperate whining about not getting the authorities involved, it feels reasonable that a sensitive, “weighing-all-the-options” wuss like Richard wouldn’t call the police. Then, later we learn a couple reasons why Richard might not trust cops in the first place.

The film does a great job slowly leaking out the secrets and lies of all the characters — to the point that it’s impossible to tell what’s even “the truth” at all — so that those early “Come on …” moments are satisfactorily reasoned away. And then … And then the gore happens.

As I said, this is a “nasty” thriller not just a pert psychological one. (Although it’s that, too.) As the three thugs get more desperate and more ballsy in their attempts to procure the girl, different weapons and instruments of death and disfigurement come into play in the totally grisly manner you hope they will.

What’s really refreshing about the film, though, is that Barrett and his screenplay co-writer Robbie Studsor really do focus on the characters first and the action second. But what I particularly liked was the reserved, human personalities of the three thugs. It would have been very easy  to have made the villains to be completely over-the-top maniacs with movie cliché characteristics. Instead, they really felt like three genuine guys who have a specific objective in mind and they legitimately try to achieve it through reasonable goals first. Yes, they eventually commit over-the-top bodily harm to their victims, but it’s a slow, believable build for them to get to that point. It’s easy to know Richard’s character arc through the film — from wuss to barbarian — but it’s nice that the thugs had their own arcs as well.

I hope I’m not focusing too much on what’s “believable” in the film or not because ultimately this is really a fun little thriller. It’s extremely tense almost right from the get-go and doesn’t let up until the very end. That it’s also wickedly gory, has some nice plot twists and satisfyingly fleshed-out characters in it, too, is a real bonus.

(This film was sent to the Underground Film Journal as a screener from the 2008 Spooky Movie Film Festival, Washington, D.C.’s horror film festival, which runs this year Oct. 16-20.)

Watch the No Through Road movie trailer: