Home » Road Games Retrospective – A Hitchcockian Suspense Thriller

Road Games Retrospective – A Hitchcockian Suspense Thriller

Poster for Richard Franklin's Road Games.
poster for Road Games.

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Quid is a long haul truck driver working in the Southern Hemisphere. To stay alert and keep his brain active, he plays road games with himself while he is traveling. He allocates imaginary back stories to the occupants of other vehicles he passes. He counts cars. And he stages various other competitions against his traveling partner, a dingo named Boswell. While on the road, Quid and Boswell begin to notice strange behavior from the driver of a green van. Quid becomes convinced that the man driving the van is linked to the string of murders that have been reported on the radio. When Quid picks up a young, female hitchhiker, she becomes instrumental in determining if Quid is losing his mind  or if he has stumbled across something more sinister.

Road Games is co-written and directed by Richard Franklin (Psycho II). Franklin draws a great deal of inspiration from Hitchcock as a director and as a co-author of the script. Road Games is taut, atmospheric, and suspenseful. It’s a bit like Rear Window on the open road.

Stacy Keach stars as Quid and Jamie Lee Curtis as the hitchhiker he picks up. Both offer up respectable performances in Road Games. Particularly impressive is the pair’s shared ability to make the most of minimal shooting locations and carry a film that unfolds almost entirely in the cab of a semi truck. The chemistry between their characters is natural and keeps the viewer curious as to what will happen between the two of them.

Road Games is not a straight up horror film. It is more of a suspenseful thriller with horror overtones. Since it stars Jamie Lee Curtis and was released at the height of the slasher boom, it was marketed as if it was a slasher film but realistically it is more of a thriller than a true horror picture.

The film’s pacing is occasionally a little choppy but the third act makes up for any unevenness in the first two. The final thirty minutes of Road Games are intense and unnerving. The last half hour is comprised of one long chase scene between Quid and the man he suspects of being the killer he’s heard about on the radio.

The biggest missed opportunity in Road Games is the score. It is very unimaginative. The music that accompanies some of the film’s more intense scenes is completely generic and could have been plucked from any late 1970s television series. If Road Games didn’t have everything going for it that it does, the score could have very well been its undoing. Fortunately, keen performances from the film’s leads and a director that understands how to create suspense save the film from succumbing to mediocrity at the hands of an uninspired composer.

Road Games is currently out of print on DVD. The Anchor Bay DVD release features a commentary track with Stacy Keach and the film’s director as well as a new retrospective featurette. I was lucky enough to find a used copy at my local record store for around $15 but the disc is now going for upwards of $45 for a used copy via leading online resellers. The film is well worth checking out for fans of Hitchcockian suspense as well as enthusiasts of Jamie Lee Curtis’ earlier body of work. While Road Games isn’t a proper horror film, it is highly suspenseful and infused with horror elements.

WICKED RATING: 6/10  [usr 6]

Director(s): Richard Franklin
Writer(s): Richard Franklin, Everett De Roche
Stars: Stacy Keach, Jamie Lee Curtis
Year: 1981
Studio/ Production Co:
Budget: $1.8 Million AUD (estimated)
Language: English
Length: 101 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Psychological Thriller


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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dog, and cat hat(s).
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