Director Crijns’ film starts strong with a taut and deliciously unpleasant opener that sets up the stakes well. And for much of the runtime the film keeps an effective atmosphere that prickles away at the viewer. Jeroen Spitzenberger effectively plays Hans as a rather dislikeable figure, but we can potentially see ourselves in him. Whose worst traits don’t come out on a long drive? Anniek Pheifer is more sympathetic as Diana, with the script strong enough so she isn’t lumbered with an under-written caricature that can slip out in a film like this. Meanwhile Willem de Wolf makes an effective antagonist, with a rage effectively bubbling away even in the character’s quieter moments.
It is regrettable that Tailgate slides too often into implausibility as it undercuts a tension that Crijns masterfully crafts. Maybe this is an idea that just doesn’t have the steam to power a feature length film. Or it could be that the mostly-urban setting doesn’t feel the most comfortable fit for the film (it’s notable that the strongest sequences are when Tailgate leaves the restraints of the city).
Nevertheless this would make a fun pairing with the recent Unhinged, offering two interesting divergences on a similar concept (although neither are as effective as Robert Harmon’s glorious The Hitcher). Tailgate manages to sustain itself by underlying a menace throughout as well as perpetuating an idea that we could all lose our cool when it comes to being on the road. Even setting this film during a bright sunny day seems to enhance the film’s overall message.
Tailgate is an effective thriller that unfortunately slips into the implausible one time too many to sit alongside the very best examples of the genre.