Backroad (2009) – By Nic Brown

Evil rarely springs fully formed from the womb; it is something that grows and develops over time. Writer/Director Wayne Slaten’s film BACKROAD looks at how evil progresses in one small Texas town. Jasper Hawkins (Matthew Carter) is not a good person. While his mother is attending a memorial service for Jasper’s father, a respected judge in the small town of Backroad, Jasper is noticeably absent. In fact, he’s holed up in a cheap motel on the outskirts of town with a barmaid. After a rough sexual encounter with the girl, Jasper steals her money and strolls out of the motel without a care in the world.

It’s a long walk back to town, and as Jasper walks his story unfolds through flashbacks to the death of his father and his childhood. Both reveal dark secrets that show Jasper may have never been a normal child, but the seeds of the man he would become were planted in fertile ground given the way he and his sister were treated by their father, a man admired by the town. Further flashbacks show that Jasper has developed a murderous, self-serving nature, almost like that of a serial killer, except the victims aren’t killed for pleasure, but simply because they are in the way of Jasper getting what he wants.

When Jasper is picked up by a stranger named Joseph Iblis (Greg Dean) and shakes Joseph’s hand, a strange connection forms and Joseph begins describing Jasper’s character in scarily accurate detail. Joseph says he’s in sales and his product is “the future”. As the drive progresses, the pair begin verbally sparring and when they have to pull off the road to let the car cool down, Joseph finally pushes Jasper too far and Jasper brutally beats him to death and steals his car. This sets the stage for the final revelation about Jasper and the true origins of his evil nature.

BACKROAD is an intelligent and engaging thriller with a surprising element of the supernatural blended seamlessly into it. The film stands out among independent horror in that it doesn’t go for the “cheap shots” of excessive gore or nudity to sell it. Instead the film relies on story. Matthew Carter’s performance is particularly noteworthy. It would be easy to slip into cliché as the killer, but Carter brings an air of unnerving believability to the role that makes his character engaging, without being sympathetic or comical. In addition to his work as writer & director, Slaten handled the film’s cinematography with a skillful hand. The movie is filled with interesting camera angles and shots that show Slaten’s eye for the camera. One shot of blood dripping into water is particularly striking. Overall BACKROAD is one of the best horror/thrillers to come out this year, so check it and find out why they say Jasper Hawkins has the devil in every inch of him!