Duel in the Dark: Throttle (2005)

Dave gets behind the wheel for a quick look at a little vehicular stalker action.

From demonic drivers (Christine (1983)) to maniacal motorists (Joy Ride (2001)), the mysterious shapes behind the cloudy windows of imposing automobiles has been a staple of the suspense genre for the last forty years. It all started, of course, with Duel (1971): Steven Spielberg’s iconic ABC movie of the week that featured the irrepressible Dennis Weaver being stalked by a brutalist tanker truck through the Mojave Desert. This influential film clearly left a lasting impression on James Seale, the writer-director of mid-’00s DTV’er THROTTLE. Indeed, this agreeable time-passer not only gives its lead character the surname Weaver, but there’s also a weighty tip-of-the-hat towards Spielberg’s classic with the appearance of a red Valiant being driven by a moustachioed man in tinted specs.

Too derivative? Perhaps, but Seale has no misconception that this is high art.

Tom (Grayson McCouch) has just finished a complex business deal and is making his way down to his car in the fifth level below ground of the parking garage. The protracted nature of his meeting sees that the lot is almost deserted, which in turn means that access to elevators and exits is strictly by keycard – which he’s left at home. Stranded below ground in the early hours of the morning, it seems things couldn’t get much worse for Tom, until – that is – the arrival of a 6000lb truck which seems intent on killing him.

Landing just prior to the more polished and far more frightening P2 (2007), Throttle nevertheless makes a good support act to Franck Khalfoun’s headliner. There’s a great air of mystery to the piece, with a genuine intrigue as to who’s orchestrating this concrete-bound nightmare for Tom. He’s an arrogant piece of work and a character that garners little sympathy – even considering flashbacks of his (potentially) adulterous wife (Amy Locane).

Momentum is a challenge, and Seale, who made Scorcher (2002) for CineTel a few years earlier, struggles with maintaining a consistent level of threat. Meanwhile, Adrian Paul, as Tom’s slimeball business partner, Gavin, nearly chokes on the scenery due to the rate at which he chews through it.

Shot in Denver, Colorado, in the Spring of 2004, Throttle surfaced on DVD the following Summer where it switched between its original title and the newly appointed ‘No Way Up’. It went on to gain a home media release in Holland, Germany, Italy, and the Far East before legendary distro Mosaic snagged it for a fanfare-free bow in Britain during February ’06. No great disaster, but a decade and a half on it makes for a pleasant rediscovery and a compelling midnight movie.

USA ● 2005 ● Action, Thriller ● 86mins

Grayson McCouch, Adrian Paul, Amy Locane, Dan Mundell ● Dir. James Seale ● Wri. Neil Elman, James Seale

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