Hell's Highway (2002): Caution: Satan's Work Ahead
From 1984 to 1989, Micheal Landon ruled the airwaves as an Angel traveling America's byways to lend a helping hand in Highway to Heaven. That series ran for five years and contained no less than 225 heartwarming moments (plus or minus an 'Awww' or two.) It took only 79 minutes for Hell's Highway to undo all the good that wholesome entertainment provided. Now to be fair with Hell's Highway, I went into it expecting another film entirely. I had it in my mind it was the 1991 film Highway to Hell that I recalled reading about in an ancient Gorezone. So after the opening scenes wherein I realized that this movie was an '02 indie and not Ate De Jong's take on Hermes and Persephone. What I didn't expect was that in such a short running time, with my expectations as low as they could get, and my cynicism toward low budget movies of the last twenty years flaring up, I would actually enjoy my trip down Hell's Highway.
The film kicks off with a group of college aged kids driving across t he country (extensively racing another load of kids to California), but things start to go badly when they ignore the fist rule of any horror movie survivor and pick up a hitchhiker named Lucinda (minor scream queen Phoebe Dollar She seems like a normal girl around their age, but soon enough she's claiming to be the devil and threatening to put a bullet in her uterus. The group manages to push her out of the car, but finds themselves ruthlessly stalked by Lucinda. At every turn she is there, and no amount of dragging her body behind a car or shooting her seems to help. The kids soon start the believe that Lucinda may well be the Devil and they might already one residents of Hell.
Hell's Highway was director Jeff Leroy's fifth film, and I'll have to be honest. While I've laid eyes on a number of his DVD boxes, I've never really caught his name before. From the description, the plot seems predictable and trite, however the film takes a cleaver twist which saves the weak premise. It also gets a shot in the arm from Phoebe Dollar's performance which anticipates Sherri Moon Zombie's performance in House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. Dollar's psycho turn is menacing and effective drawing from equal parts Edwin Neal's Texas Chainsaw hitchhiker and a gleefully demented Russ Meyer girl. Though she appears in less of the film's total running time than any of the other actors, she's the only one that leaves any impression on me upon reflection.
The effects in Hell's Highway are solid interpretations of classic effects, and the body dragging behind the car is worth the hour and change alone. There's also a dynamite model sequence, pun untended. The greatest strength of Leroy's film might be brevity, shave another couple of minutes and it fir nicely into an anthology series. The director suffered an injury during the filming of Hell's Highway, and naturally it was burns. He had dabbled into the affairs of the horned one below, and suffered the consequences. I guess it proves that if you can stand the heat, you might just cook up a little something in the kitchen. Oh ,also, Ron Jeremy gets his dick cut off. How many horror movies have something to do with the man being somehow separated from his wang? Seriously. A lot.
Check out the short doc The Curse of Hell's Highway