MIRAGE *** Australia  1990  Dir: Bill Crain   84 mins 

An underrated slasher owing a large debt to the portentous vehicular homicide of movies like DUEL, THE CAR and THE HITCHER. Three attractive couples are menaced by a mysterious dude in a black pick-up truck in the middle of the desert, who begins by leaving threatening notes on windshields and voyeuristically observing their shagging sessions, but inevitably escalates to sadism.
The guys are interchangeable, buff studs and the girls are super-pretty: that’s Laura Albert (also in THE UNNAMABLE and STONE COLD) as dumb-but-hot Male Fantasy Girl “Bambi”, who takes her top off at the drop of a hat and says things like “I’m not into this conversation thing, ya know…I think I need another beer…”  Although slow-starting and hampered by a couple of horrible performances, this is a well shot, suspenseful chiller with impressively eerie use of the sparse desert locale that somewhat prefigures the mood of the later WOLF CREEK. Strong, intense individual scenes (a guy buried up to his neck in the sand tormented with a live grenade, a HITCHER-inspired dismemberment) are enhanced by carefully used, gruesome make-up effects by R Christopher Biggs. Jennifer McAllister, clad in ridiculously flimsy white top and ripped jeans while wielding a crossbow, is an appealing heroine, and the tense, violent finale showcases a movie-stealing turn from B.G. Steers as a refreshingly unhinged, sadistic killer who is referred to only as “Villain” in the credits and has no back-story or motivation: he’s just nuts. “I always wondered how long one of you Prom Queen bitches could last…” he grins prior to surviving McAllister’s persistent, survivalist actions, including an arrow through the head and having his guts poked around while she searches for a crucial key he swallowed earlier. Still unavailable on official DVD but well worth seeking out.

Review by Steven West

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