TAILGATE (aka BUMPERKLEEF, 2019)
Directed and written by Lodewijk Crijns.
Starring Jeroen Spitzenberger, Anniek Pheifer, Roosmarijn van der Hoek, Liz Vergeer, Truus te Selle, Hubert Fermin, Willem de Wolf as the Driver!
Hans (Jeroen Spitzenberger) and his family are going to visit his parents for the weekend for his father’s birthday. Of course, he and his family are running late, so Hans decides to make up the time on the highway. What the family didn’t plan on was running into Ed (Willem de Wolf) a serial killer who tracks down people who tailgate him on the highway and kills them wearing a hazmat suit and spraying a toxic pesticide on his victims. Ed relentlessly pursues Hans and his family on and off the road in order to enact his twisted form of justice.
I wasn’t expecting how much fun I was going to have with TAILGATE. It’s an over the top, adrenaline rush of a film that pretty much starts its motors in the first few seconds and doesn’t stop barrelling down the highway until the credits roll. The film is basically a morality lesson that expands into a broader allegory of a man who thinks he is an adult adulting around and doing adult things, but in actuality is a small child. It’s a harsh tale that really cuts deep by the end, putting our lead, Hans, through the emotional and physical wringer. The story manages to be action packed, but still quite deep with the way it communicates its message, unabashedly taking the side of the maniac motorist who is pursuing the family instead of the other way around. While this is a family in peril, the great thing is that, as we get to know the family, we realize how awful they really are. It makes for an interesting watch as you begin the film feeling for the family who find themselves in peril, but as the momentum shifts and true colors emerge, it’s hard to really find anyone worth your cheers.
While this is not a Dick Maas film, it definitely has the same kind of offbeat humor, bombastic stunts, and over the top gore and violence to be a close relative. Lodewijk Crijns never lets the camera rest a second, creating some of the most harrowing car stunt work simply by focusing on the car and then whatever is in its path and then back again. Some scenes are sped up, but for the most part, the chase scenes are real. The cars really do get that close to one another. And the speeds they drive are nerve-wracking. The highways in this Dutch landscape feel like something out of MAD MAX, with barely a speed limit and no law in sight. This makes the motorway a reckless hazard zone, allowing Hans to rocket down the highway with very little care for the peril he is putting his family into. After pissing off Ed, the peril takes shape and the exterminator sprayer Ed uses for a murder weapon is one of the more creative and palpable tools of death you’re ever going to see. Still, despite the attention to action, Crijns never fails to take time for personality as well as building tension to feverish levels.
TAILGATE (also known as BUMPERKLEEF–how cool is that!) was remade last year as UNHINGED starring Russell Crowe. While there are elements that are the same, the Americanized version pales in comparison. What feels like a second rate falling down is glorious in the Dutch version by Crijns. Having seen both, skip the Russell Crowe version. It’s not terrible, but ultimately, forgettable. If you really want to occupy the edge of your seat for the entire film, seek out TAILGATE. I watched the dubbed version and the translation was both tension-laden and utterly hilarious. I honestly haven’t has so much fun with a film this year as I had with TAILGATE. This one is highly recommended for those who love some laughs and a little metaphorical depth to their thrills and chills.