Monday, May 16, 2011

Travellers (2011)


My girlfriend is always bugging me about traveling abroad, but she hasn't seen as many horror movies as I have. I know the dangers of being an American in a foreign land. Then again, the worst thing that ever happened to me in England was getting lost from my hotel. But, we weren't traveling in the countryside, which is where most of our favorite on-screen horrors occur. Kris McManus' Travellers is a bit like Deliverance but with a cockney attitude and is further proof that I won't be roaming out of my comfort zone any time soon. I doubt there are nice little old ladies in the middle of nowhere to help me back to my hotel for a few pounds. Just gypsies and evil.

Such is the case in this film. Four friends take a motorcycle vacation away from their city life in an effort to reclaim some youth and ponder on their wasted lives. After setting up camp on some desolate land, the friends drink and reminisce. The following morning, they spot a caravan in the distance and decide to check it out. Andy, the youngest and most hot-headed of the group, is disgusted that the mobile home appears to belong to gypsies and spray paints "Pikey Scum" along the side of it. Just then, the caravan owners return, kidnapping one of the friends, while the other three make a run for it. Chased through the thick and endless woods, survival of the fittest becomes the game, but not everyone will make it out alive.

While Travellers may sound like another "city boys get chased by inbred hicks" flick, I need to stress that it's far from it. The motives of the gypsies are never actually made clear, and while the body count does rise in the film, it's difficult to tell whose fault it really is. Martin, the leader of the gypsies, stays at the caravan the whole time, preparing for a boxing match he has that night. Dan, the kidnapped friend, is tied up inside of the trailer where he receives abuse from Martin, but also a sympathetic ear from Martin's sister with whom he grows a small bond. Martin also has his share of sympathetic moments, like when he frustratingly tries to wipe the graffiti off of his caravan to no avail. It's really hard to tell who is good and who is bad in the film, which gives the story a bit of layering and prevents it from being just another survival-horror.

Though the film looks at times like it was shot on a handy cam, it also boasts some gorgeous wide scenes when it wants to. The low budget feel actually adds to the story in this case and doesn't distract you from the plot. This is heightened by some particularly dazzling (but gory) special effects, including a vicious shotgun blast to the head and a knifing to the neck that will leave you in awe. The ambient score as well as the lulling acoustic soundtrack provided by Dicken Marshall adds a gentle and quiet touch to the film, particularly in the almost-hypnotic opening and closing credits.

Overall, Travellers is a provocative little indie-thriller that boasts some good acting (not all, but some), violence, and a different approach to the survival genre. There's also a pretty epic bare-knuckle brawl toward the end of the film, so make sure and stick around for it. In retrospect, maybe I'm being too hard on traveling abroad. I know better than to vandalize another person's property, and that UK countryside did look quite relaxing. I's not like I'm going to Australia.

3/5 Stars

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