Thursday, March 19, 2009

Highway to Hell (USA, 1992)

(Trailer.) One of those forgotten films that has a rap much worse than it deserves, Ate de Jong's Highway to Hell is actually a cult film waiting to be rediscovered, a low budget hodgepodge of disparate ideas that works better than one would think, much like the earlier, bigger budgeted and arguably more saccharine black comedy Beetle Juice (1988/trailer). Indeed, though the script seems a bit thrown together, Highway to Hell still shows a lot of creativity and gets some good laughs as well as serving up an occasional dose of decent horror. The small size of its budget is obvious everywhere, but it only helps add to the charm. Of course, people who like smooth, by-the-number Hollywood product are not going to like an unpolished and flawed jewel like this, but for the rest of us, Highway to Hell will be a fun ride. How can you hate a film that presents hell as the land of the Road Warrior (1981/trailer) suffering major Volkswagen beetle traffic jams, an army of highway clean-up men who all look like Andy Warhol, and a donut shop populated by nothing but undead cops?
True, the film never quit reaches the delirious heights and gore of the similarly tasteless, hit-and-miss black comedy Idle Hands (1999/trailer), but as an early predecessor, Highway to Hell delivers more than enough. Likewise, some of the effects have indeed aged and the blood flow is low, but the dialogue is at least both funny and consistent, even if the story seems to jump around a bit. (Scriptwriter Brian Helgeland has since gone on to much more respectable things, such as L.A. Confidential (1997/trailer), Conspiracy Theory (1997), Payback (1999) and A Knight's Tale (2001/trailer) – the latter two he even directed as well.)
Filmed in Arizona and Utah, Highway to Hell stars a young and less annoying than usual Kristy Swanson as Rachel, Rob Lowe's brother (and Hilary Swank's ex-husband) Chad Lowe as Charlie, and the attractively sleazy Patrick Bergen as Beezle, the most likable Satan ever filmed. An at-the-time relatively unknown Ben Stiller makes a few mini-appearances, and the long forgotten Lita Ford – anyone remember The Runaways? – and Gilbert Gottfried also pop up for the ride, the latter as Hitler.
Charlie and Rachel, two teenagers in love, are off for Vegas where they want to get married. Driving a wreck of a car, they take an old, deserted side road and stop for gas at a station run by Sam (Richard Farnsworth), an old geezer that seems to have few screws loose. He warns them not to stop the car between the two Joshua Trees up ahead no matter what, but of course they do, and up pops Hellcop (C. J. Graham), who rips the door off the car, knocks Charlie around a bit, kidnaps Rachel and disappears into a vortex of light. Charlie rushes back to Sam who first fills out the story a bit by explaining that like his own gal years past, Rachel has been taken to hell as Satan's bride. He supplies Charlie with a shotgun, ammunition, a souped-up classic car and soon thereafter Charlie is in hell on the heels of his sweetheart. Oddly enough, until the final chase scene, the most help he gets along the way comes from Satan himself, in the guise of Beezle, the Satanic Mechanic (an obvious reference to the great classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975/trailer)).
Satan's assistance is easy to understand if you consider his belief in his own omniscience and his probable need or desire for entertainment, but the sudden assistance of Sam's old gal Clara (Pamela Gidley) is less understandable – though one could put it down to some inexplicable need for redemption or a simple pique fit of jealousy. And, the moral lesson of the movie? That becomes clear when we learn along the way that Rachel (and, most likely, Charlie) is a virgin. Since Satan only kidnaps virgins, had they only had a little pre-marital fun, the whole situation probably wouldn't have happened. Thus, kiddies, keep this in mind: If you fuck, you won't go to hell!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...