Long hauls with the family are never that much fun, especially when the only roadside attraction is a little out of the way place called Hell. The never-named highway stars include The Man (Andrey Merzlikin), his kvetching wife, whiny young son, and two mysterious figures that could be father and daughter… or Satan and his concubine (take a wild guess as to which).
After their Blazer breaks down in the middle of nowhere, there is no choice for The Man but to leave on foot in search of sanctuary or at least a working cell tower. What he finds is bread, a babe, and an old man with a weird beard living in a remote, boarded-up shack. And things get even stranger, in this Kazakhstan chiller from 2009.
After The Man meets the young woman and (he presumes) her father, he decides to round up his family and bring them to the shelter. But when he returns to his Chevy, it’s empty. Have his wife and kid been rescued? Did they take off in search of him? Were they abducted? No way of knowing. As we see everything from The Man’s POV, the story unfolds little by little. His hosts aren’t exactly inhospitable, but they certainly are inscrutable. They say they’ve been “waiting” for him, but there’s no red carpet rolled out… and certainly no working phone, running water, or wheels of any kind – in fact, the plotting pair convince their guest to dismantle his vehicle and roll the wheels into their house! And guess what? The Man is that dumb.
While Strayed does offer up some decent visuals, good acting, and reasonably suspenseful direction, it falls flat in its cardboard characterizations: everyone, each of the five characters in the story, are utter clichés.
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson