23rd Oct2020

Frightfest 2020: ‘Tailgate’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jeroen Spitzenberger, Anniek Pheifer, Roosmarijn van der Hoek, Liz Vergeer, Willem de Wolf, Truus te Selle, Hubert Fermin, Tim Linde | Written and Directed by Lodewijk Crijns

Hans is a self-confident, cocksure man who decides to visit his parents on the other side of the country. With his wife and two young daughters along for the ride, the road trip goes well. Until a road raging, traffic fight with a weird van driver causes a major family upset. Ed, the van driver, wants revenge and follows the family making their journey an assault course death trap. With Hans’ ego on maximum overdrive, he starts to lose control of himself as Ed pushes every fearful and vulnerable button.

It’s safe to say I’ve very much been looking forward to seeing Tailgate, it’s a film thats not only been on my radar for some time but the filmmakers, upon the announcement that the film was playing as part of Frightfest’s October programme, shared a rather terrifying clip from the film on social media – which only whet my appetite even further.

So what of the finished product? Well let’s just say it did not disappoint!

On paper Tailgate seems like yet another take on the “road rage” stories of the likes of Steven Spielberg’s Duel, or the more recent Joyride trilogy of films. However it differs from both of those films in one key area… The films antagonist. We see him, we’re shown what he’s capable of in the films opener. We, the audience, fear him well before his victims do. We know they shouldn’t provoke him, antagonise him… And when they do we’re left on tenterhooks waiting to see what will happen. What outrageous vengeance our road rage madman – in his… wait for it… white van! For yes, this is white van man taken to horrific extremes – will unleash on his, totally unsuspecting victims.

Surprisingly our protagonist Hans, isn’t that much of a sympathetic character. He’s already stressed before hitting the road; put on edge by his parents incessant phone calls asking when Hans and his family will arrive. Then there’s the drive. Road rage from other drivers puts Hans even more on edge, so much so that when he sees Ed (Willem de Wolf), the white van man, at the petrol station it’s Hans who is the attacker, the man one the offensive – pushing Wolf’s creepy Ed around. Again, teasing the audience. Putting us on edge. Perhaps as much as Hans is on his drive.

Speaking of driving, there’s a real sense – despite the film being set on the open road – of claustrophobia to Tailgate. The constant bickering of Hans’ kids, putting a strain on Hans and in-turn his wife, all filmed inside the close quarters of their car, makes for a tense ride. A ride which only gets more terrifying when Hans confronts Ed on the side of the road… You see Ed doesn’t just like to scare people IN his car, he’s more than happy to attack them face-to-face, in some bizarre sense of “justice”. And Willem de Wolf is, honestly, unbelievably creepy. Without saying anything, without DOING anything, he just exudes creepiness – making him one terrifying villain!

Music also plays a huge part in Tailgate – an eerie mix of strings; droning hums; a drumming that almost feels like the heart beat of the film itself; and odd, out-of-place tapping – oftentimes replacing the entirety of the films sound. A lot of times reflecting the concentration of Hans as he drowns out his families arguments in the car and concentrates on the ever-present white van following them. The use of silence, well a lack of talking, is fantastically effectual – combining with the soundtrack to really ramp up the tension. And goddamn it if that use of sound isn’t brought right to the fore as the credits roll, leaving the audience to make up our minds what is happening; possibly crafting a more terrifying conclusion than even the filmmakers could imagine!

Just when you think things are going OK for Hans and his family things take another turn (pardon the pun), and another. Ed is relentless. Totally relentless. And seemingly without a sense of normality. He sees his world one way and should you see it any other it seems he feels well within his right dispense his bizarre punishments; justifying his actions every horrific step of the way. Though I couldn’t help but feel, as Tailgate drew to its conclusion, that Hans brought a lot of this on himself out of some weird sense of bravado and sheer chauvinistic stubbornness. Ed and Hans two sides of the same coin, two toxic masculinities butting heads – with Hans’ family suffering because of it…

***** 5/5

Tailgate screened as part of the Frightfest October Digital Edition today, Friday October 23rd. The film is set for release on Digital HD on October 26th, courtesy of Frightfest Presents/Signature Entertainment.


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