"Chris and a group of friends are out in the desert on a weekend break, when a mysterious shape appears on the horizon. Is it a truck - or is it a mirage? Is it playing games - or is it deliberately hunting them down?
The awful truth dawns on the terrified young holidaymakers as one by one they are mercilessly killed.
Soon, only Chris is left alone - with the truck and whoever, or whatever, is driving it.
When the sun sets, the fear really begins."
As I said in my review for HAVE A NICE WEEKEND (1974) there's often good reason why some titles are so obscure and hard-to-find; namely they're bloody awful! However, whilst all that glitters may not be gold there's still a few pearls out there amongst the dusty, plastic swine. MIRAGE is no bone-fide classic, by any means, but it's several notches above similar early 90's fodder.
Four teens are camping out in a sunbaked desert. Doing what teens do when on vacation: Chris and her equally blonde boyfriend, Greg, take to shagging in the back of a pickup van, whilst a weight presses down on the accelerator and they go speeding over the sands as bluegrass blares from the speakers (novel, I guess); whilst new-age spouting Trip (with a rather unfortunate mullet) and his girldfriend, Mary, joyride in a truck. Trip and Mary notice a black van, with blacked out windows, start to follow, then chase them; they take off and find themselves driving into a dead-end, but when they turn around there's no sign of the black truck. Causing Trip to observe, "Maybe it's weird traveller day, or something?". Or could it be ... a mirage?!
When the four teens recamp Greg's equally blonde, older brother, Kyle, turns up with his new girlfriend, the air-headed, bouncy breasted Bambi. It turns out that Kyle used to date Chris and, in-fact, is in league with Bambi, who's not as dumb as she looks; he's after making Chris jealous and she's in on the act. The afternoon ends in a fight between the brothers. Kyle and Bambi leave the group on their motorcycle and speed off. To make things worse, they find a note under the windscreen wiper of one of the vehciles saying, written in what looks like blood, "You are all going to die!", which obviously puts a bit of dampner on things. One of them rather sensibly suggests, "If one of us didn't write this then we seriously need to get outta here!", but, of course, then do no such thing, rather they opt to sit around and drink beer and bicker.
However, out of the night a vehicle roars past, thinking it's Kyle and Chris jump into the pickup and race after it. It turns out not to be Kyle, rather the stranger in the black van who manages to knock out Greg, leaving Chris scrambling in the dirt after he uses a grenade to blow up their pickup. Greg finds himself having a mind blowing experience whilst Chris has to find her own way back to the campsite, in the unforgiving sun, only to discover a gruesome scene awaiting her ...
OK, so the best way to describe MIRAGE, if I was pushed would be as a teen DUEL (1971). The fairly likeable cast (as likeable as jocks in these things can be) are obviously enjoying themselves, and Chris is especially convincing as the final girl who gets to breaking point and decides to fight back as best she can (surprisingly this was her last credited film role). The action is handled pretty well by genre veteran, William Crain, director of trash classic BLACULA (1972), and it's surprising, given the low expectations of most straight-to-video fare of this calibre, it actually twists and turns and doesn't go exactly where you think it might, much to its credit. The film is pretty tense at times, too.
The film's greatest strength, however, lies in the identity of the killer. I guess this isn't a spoiler, as such, as the killer isn't one of the already introduced characters. Throughout the film you get to see the killer's boots and trousers, but never his face. The biker black leather kinda made me assume it would be some Michael Berryman type, but little did I expect it to turn out to be a slightly butcher version of Emo Philips! Poor Chris is terrorised by this goofy villain in black who taunts her with camp acid bon-bons such as "What's the matter? Don't you want to be friends?", whilst throwing decaying body parts at her! Despite his slightly fey demeanor it doesn't stop the killer inheriting that old Myers' magic, he manages to get back up after the final girl shoots an arrow through his mouth and out through the back of his head! Actually, MIRAGE doesn't skimp on the red stuff, which makes a nice change from the usual nouveaux'ish slasher.
Overall, this obscure little number is well worth tracking down.
female:1 / male:7
1) Male has head blown up with a grenade (offscreen)
2) Female found with throat slit
3) Male dismembered (dream sequence)
4) Male run down by truck and shot in head
5) Male shot then stabbed through neck with arrow
6) Male skeleton seen
7) Male corpse found
8) Male has arrow shot through his mouth and out through the back of his head, then stabbed to death