Reviewbr> "As soon as he fires you go for gold" - Tanya
Five teenagers head into the bush to trek to the "bridge to nowhere", two days off the beaten path. Along the way they play loud music, one of them indiscriminately fires a gun, and invariable there's booze and if two of the males get their way a bit of horizontal action. This doesn't escape the attention of local cattle wrangler Mac or his partner Lise, who is more welcoming of the city marauders than one would expect.
Naturally there's tension in the teenage group. Carl is along because his mother demanded his sister Tanya take him, much to the annoyance of the other males Leon and Gray. Tanya and Leon are having relationship issues with Leon attempting to rape Tanya, leading to the fracture of the group cohesive. When Leon, off on his own, happens upon Lise having a late night bath, and then goes peeping tom through Mac and Lise's bedroom window things come to a boil. Can five city teenagers outsmart a psychotic bushman who is hunting them down? Tragedy and rural massacre is in the offering, let's rope and brand this one.
Bridge to Nowhere unites two mainstays of the Kiwi film industry, Ian Mune, an Actor who also dabbled in Directing, here presenting his follow up to the classic Came a Hot Friday, and Bruno Lawrence who seemed to be a fixture of every kiwi movie through the 1970s and 1980s prior to washing up in Aussie television. Added flavour to the broth of Bridge is Margaret Umbers (Tanya) who previously had roles in Death Warmed Up and Mr Wrong, and Alison Routledge (Lise) who previously starred in The Quiet Earth. Naturally given the firepower on offer I was expecting something pretty good to leap out of the screen and take me by the throat. What I got was a mixed bag to be honest, but at least a departure from the by 1986 standard blueprint for a rural massacre flick.
Director Mune kicks his movie off in pretty good style to be honest laying a nice framework for what is to come. We meet Leon who is in the process of stealing his father's rifle from what looks to be an upmarket apartment. Tanya and Carl clearly come from somewhat less salacious backgrounds, judging by the nearness' of the next door neighbour through the lounge room window. And finally Julia comes from one of those sharing family situations where parents insanely trust their children. I was expecting our fifth member of the posse of slaughtered souls to be the school athlete type, but as it turns out the weirdly named Gray is anything but.
Which brings us to one of the undoubted strengths of Bill Baer and Ian Mune's script, each of the teens acts in character while not conforming to the genre stereotypes we may be expecting. Julia is all caring and sharing but Tanya is not the expected slut. Our outsider for the duration, boot boy Carl, is sensitive but quite able to get into action mode when required. Interesting enough the thoroughly despicable Leon plays to a slightly unhinged individual, and that's one character you are going to love to hate, while Gray shows an ultimate weakness when Leon isn't around to support him. It's an interesting and varied crew to say the least, and I'll reiterate, above the expected "bus load of idiots" one normally gets dealt in these sorts of outings.
Our rural psychos had me confused for a while, I simply couldn't work out the relationship between the brooding Mac and the flighty Lise. At first I thought Father and Daughter but later events makes that a worrisome idea, though since the movie isn't based in Tasmania we may be on more solid ground. Without giving too much away Mac isn't the only one with a few loose connections in the mental department, once again Baer and Mune throw a twist into the plot that I wasn't expecting. Lawrence and Mune manager to garner some sympathy for Mac, another example of this movie rising above the swamp of inanity it's particular sub-genre normally baths in. Mac isn't the faceless outback killer without a decent motive that normally populates these sorts of things.
While this movie probably appear on any cult classic lists, Mune manages to bring something slightly different to the table.
Needless to say the movie resolves around that weird horror morality where only those who deserve to be punished find themselves on the wrong end of a psycho's gun sights, and it has to be said that Bridge to Nowhere is probably the only movie in existence where the hero eventually turns out to be a Boot boy! If only they had of ponied up with some Suburban Reptiles on the soundtrack that would have rocked.
I got to say I was particular impressed with Ian Mune's work behind the camera here, the dude not being one of my favourite Directors. We get some good wide pans and overhead shots highlighting how isolated the cast are when things go down, and simply excellent attempts at getting the whole foreboding natural of the New Zealand bush happening. I get the feeling the Producers of the television series The Cult were well versed in Mune's work here as the same establishment shots are used. Besides some wooden acting, not everyone here would go on to a glittering careers, Mune has the cast working for him.
I should add that Stephen McCurdy has the score working for Mune's at times dense framing, there's always the expectation that something unexpected is going to happen.
Okay so there are the odd weak points beyond some ham fisted acting. The dialogue at times is over dramatic, certain scenes crop up without any prepping giving the feeling the Writers had a wider agenda than could be committed to film, and the resolution while dramatic doesn't obey the same physics as we have to contend with. But overall I'm not going to kick this one too much, low budget and some harsh looking shooting locations paved over a lot of sins in my book of cinematic woes.
I'm wondering if Mune was aware of the particular tiger he had by the tail here. We get teens playing loud music, in the process destroying the tranquility of the bush, and a fair amount of environmental damage. Normally this sort of thing features more heavily in the nature attacks sub-genre. Likewise the partaking of alcohol and the hint of sexual energy usually has the effect of bringing the moral majority out in force, or at least any local Voorhees family members.
Not forgetting Mune throws his hands in the air like he just don't care and goes T&A cause that's what these movies need right? In another one of those surprises this movie brings to the table we get full frontal male nudity. Yes ladies we're talking the full monty here as Mune goes a lot further than the expected boobs. Not that we're lacking in the boob department, every female in the movie get's her top off and is either bare arsed naked or prancing around in her knickers. Did Ian Mune just establish Kiwiploitation? Copyright pending ... oh go ahead and use it we don't mind.
When I slipped this disc in the player I was expecting standard rural massacre fare, hell not complaining about that if done right, but got a much better movie. Considering the budget this is a pretty low key and well done exploration of isolation and madness, and you just have to love an outing with Bruno doing his schlock. Worth a look if you can source a copy of the movie, irritating teens meeting wild bushman, hell yeah!
The review copy of Bridge to Nowhere came courtesy of Charles over at nzvideos, for more details on the movie check out NZVideos in-depth coverage.