Anyone’s who’s taken a bus trip will attest to how depressing such a voyage can be. Throw in an episode of child molestation and you have all the makings of a truly grim and depressing film like “Riders.”
That’s the reason Alex Stone (Bodine Alexander), a tough but vulnerable teenaged girl, and her younger sister Sara (Sarah Stusek) find themselves embarking on a bus ride to New Orleans in search of their estranged father. The girls are fleeing from Ned (Doug Sadler), their mom’s (Jane Beard) ominous new boyfriend. Suspicious and hostile towards the creepy freeloading interloper from the start, Alex goes ballistic when she discovers an inappropriate encounter between Ned and her thankfully naive kid sister in the bathroom. After repeated pleas to her maddeningly oblivious mom fall on deaf ears, Alex takes matters into her own hands, spiriting Sara away in the middle of the night and hopping on the aforementioned bus en route to The Big Easy in search of their estranged father.
Here writer/director Doug Sadler’s film begins to bog down as the trip drags on seemingly in real time. In spite of its dabblings at being a surreal road movie, the trip ultimately becomes pointless as Alex realizes that only by confronting Ned, and not running away from him, will she realize her goal of protecting Sara.
In spite of solid performances by Alexander and Sadler as Alex’s icky nemesis, one could take out the mostly useless travelogue filler and we’re left with a heavy duty subject matter covered repeatedly in Lifetime movies and/or countless network movies of the week. It’s not that “Riders” is a particularly bad movie. It’s just that it’s largely a pointless road trip to nowhere new.