America has miles of empty, desolate highway. And horror movies have exploited these for some classic results. From Steven Spielberg’s Duel to Jeepers Creepers, horror movie characters have been running on fumes cross-country in the USA. Common sense would suggest that drivers would be best to avoid hitchhikers (The Hitcher, House of 1000 Corpses). But disturbed serial killer truck drivers are apparently lurking around every lonely diner. You’ll find them in the obscure Road Games, Joy Ride, Vacancy, and Breakdown. Now indie thriller Rucker takes horror fans on an early 2022 road trip. To date, this serial killer movie hasn’t attracted much attention.
Though his ex-wife, Darlene, left him years ago, trucker Leif Rucker hasn’t given up hope that they’ll reunite. As he drives the road, he picks up an aspiring documentary filmmaker, Maggie, who agrees to film Rucker’s day-to-day life. But Rucker isn’t interested in just showing Maggie the lonely stretches of highway he experiences as a trucker. Instead, Rucker takes her into his twisted lifelong obsession to prove his undying love to Darlene with a murderous work of road art.
Trucker a Quirky Character Study That Often Lacks in Necessary Tension
With Rucker, writer and director Amy Hesketh – and co-writer Aaron Drane – opts for a more ambitious character study. As a result, Rucker avoids the more grimy Grindhouse feel and exploitative violence of Maniac. Instead, Hesketh blends a few serial killer tropes with contemplative, and occasionally offbeat, indie movie vibes. Following a false faux documentary setup, Hesketh mixes longs stretches of dialogue with blunt scenes of violence and even a few bits of animation. If nothing else, Rucker makes for eclectic viewing. Some of these offbeat stretches, however, feel aimless. There’s a rarely a sense of urgency and, while that may have been the intent, it leaves the climax feeling a bit flat.
If nothing else, Rucker makes for eclectic viewing.
Some of Rucker’s problems can be traced back to the screenplay itself and Hesketh’s approach to storytelling. Initially, there’s some intrigue as you try to figure out who’s behind the camera and, once Maggie appears on screen, try to discern her role in the movie. When Maggie doesn’t flinch after watching Rucker kill a victim, this intrigue turns into a hook that keeps you watching. Nothing about this serial killer’s motives or modus operandi feel fresh. But the dynamics between the main characters and how Hesketh lets bits of the story to unfold are intriguing enough to allow you to invest. Whether this culminates in a climax that’s affecting will depend on your perspective. Still it feels like Rucker’s final moments were clumsily executed.
Rucker’s Cast as Eclectic As Its Approach To Its Serial Killer Story
No, Corey Taylor of Slipknot does not ‘star’ in Rucker. Contrary to the promotional materials, Taylor is present albeit in what doesn’t amount to much more than a very minor supporting role. As fellow trucker, ‘Taco Tuesday’, Taylor’s presence has to little to no impact on the movie’s overall quality. That being said, Rucker’s motely group of trucker buddies make for a handful of diverting pit stops. A spin-off movie featuring just these characters spinning anecdotes of their days on the road might be entertaining. But their scenes here run too long for what little they accomplish in the movie. It’s just another example of narrative diversions that sap this thriller of its tension. Scream Queen Jessica Cameron (Silent Night) also shows up in a brief supporting role.
Yet King never captures that simmering intensity that made Michael Rooker’s performance in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer so terrifying.
In the title role, Bobby C King delivers a good performance that satisfies most expectations for this sort of movie. Specifically, King captures that disarming ‘everyman’ feel that feels more in line with serial killer literature. While mainstream theatrical movies, like Saw or Se7en, present serial killers as larger-than-life Machiavellian geniuses, King’s ‘Rucker’ is the kind of ‘average Joe’ to whom you wouldn’t give a second glance. It’s this aspect of the character that makes the movie’s violent moments a little more shocking. Yet King never captures that simmering intensity that made Michael Rooker’s performance in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer so terrifying. And Cheyenna Lee’s performance as ‘Maggie’ is perfectly fine but the role required more range.
Rucker Aspires For More, But Its Ambition Exceeds Its Reach
One can’t fault Rucker for aspiring to more than just another serial killer movie. Yet in spite of good intentions, Rucker is something of an awkward curiosity as opposed to compelling viewing. Neither as exploitative as Maniac nor as frightening as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Rucker lacks the substance to fully justify its character study. King is quietly excellent as ‘Leif Rucker’ and Hesketh has good ideas along with some creative approaches to familiar material. But there’s far too many lulls that don’t add the weight necessary to justify their inclusion.