A hotheaded dad loses his cool on the interstate and ends up tailgating the wrong fellow. That’s what kickstarts the fittingly titled “Tailgate”, a new horror thriller from the Netherlands that begins similar to the 2020 Russell Crowe thriller “Unhinged”. But road-rage is about all the two films have in common. “Tailgate” spirals into a perplexing stew with more logic-defying moments than actual thrills.
The story revolves around a family of four who are unfortunately led by their inane patriarch Hans (Jeroen Spitzenberger). We first meet them as the short-tempered grump is chewing out his wife Diana (Anniek Pheifer) and their two daughters for being late. They’re supposed to be going to his parents house for dinner but his oldest daughter won’t get off her pogo stick and Diana forgot her sunglasses – just normal family stuff. But not for the irritable Hans.
When they finally get on the road Hans drives like a maniac while still fussing at his family (what a guy). As he weaves through interstate traffic he gets stuck behind a white van poking along in the passing lane. Unable to get around, the incensed Hans lays on his horn and starts riding the van driver’s bumper. He finally gets by and speeds down the highway only to notice the van following him. Behind the wheel is a tall older man (Willem de Wolf) who wants an apology and will do anything to get it including terrorizing this family for the next 80 minutes.
While “Tailgate” builds itself around an unsettling premise, all-in-all it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. There is a little nuance to its psycho – an everyday man in his early sixties armed with toxic herbicide rather than a gun or a knife. There are also some clever visual touches and snappy pacing which keeps things moving forward. But the story doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from countless other thrillers and the head-scratching choices it makes defies any hint of logic.
Which gets back to Hans who is not only one of the most unlikable people, but he’s quite possibly the dumbest single character I’ve seen in a movie. I wish I could say that’s just hyperbole, but I genuinely mean it. The things this guy does throughout the film goes beyond simply bad decision-making. It’s aggressively stupid and often throws common sense out the window. With that guy calling the shots it’s no wonder the family is in constant danger.
To make matters worse, the version I watched was dubbed with truly awful voiceovers rather than the original language which became somewhat of an endurance test. But even looking past the horrid voice work, “Tailgate” is a movie that latches onto some pretty familiar material but does nothing new with it. It’s made worse by chaining us to an asinine lead character who is as witless as he is insufferable. “Tailgate” is now available on VOD.