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Black Cadillac (2003)

Three Minnesota teenagers hit a roadhouse in Wisconsin where they don't check IDs and cut loose, the scarfaced CJ (Josh Hammond) starting a fight finished by the clean-cut Scott (Shane Johnson). With Scott's overshadowed younger brother Bobby (Jason Dohring) in the backseat of Scott's Saab, the teens are menaced on a snowy night in the woods by a persistent black Cadillac, that keeps challenging the hair-trigger Scott to a drag-race. The trio pick up a stranded Sheriff (Randy Quaid) who is surprisingly willing to go along with their jaunt, but the taunting gets more intense – with 'your sin will find you out' scrawled on the windscreen and the Cadillac forcing the Saab deeper into the dark woods.

A variation on the Duel formula, this riffs a little on Joyride but goes its own way in the interesting cross-currents of long-standing friendship and resentment among the lead characters, with CJ – who dresses and acts like a low-rent Tyler Durden – recounting various yarns about how he got his scar until Scott finally reveals the unflattering truth. As is often the case, the explanation of the central mystery disappoints after the unsettling build-up: when the occupants of the Cadillac get out and reveal their motives they become less threatening than they are as indistinct shadows. After a solid decade in DTV work (an Amityville sequel, Contagion), director-writer John Murlowski shows more ambition with this personal project, which has a 'based on a true story' tag and is allegedly semi-autobiographical.

First published in this form here.

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