Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Project Terrible: Highway to Hell

Let the Terrible begin!  While other blogs taking part are neck-deep into their Project Terrible films, I'm just getting started on mine.  On the other hand, I'm tackling all of mine in a single week, as opposed to spacing it out  So what film do I begin Terrible Week with?  If you guessed, an obscure '80s film that is half-comedy/half-action film, then you guessed right.  The film is Highway to Hell, which stars Kristy 'I'm not a Robot' Swanson and Chad 'Yes, I'm related' Lowe.  In a nutshell, it's the classic tale of guy-meets-girl and guy-has-to-go-to-Hell-to-save-her.  Been there, done that!  Seriously though, this plot is pretty weird.  It's mostly a pretense for bizarre comedy scenes that take place between the real story.  In addition to that, a number of people you wouldn't think of appear here.  In fact, it's a family affair for one group of comedians.  This is actually fitting, since I did the poster for this film for Impossibly-Cool Cover Art a while back.  Now I'll have a proper comparison to make.  The real question is this: is the film Terrible?  To find out the answer, read on...
After a goofy opening credit sequence involving some postcards (see above), the film proper begins with our heroes (Lowe and Swanson) in a Diner.  They have eloped, which makes Lowe paranoid about them being caught.  Did I miss the day that it was considered to be a Felony?  They end up taking a back road to Vegas when a cop happens to drive by them.  After a stop for gas, Lowe falls asleep at the wheel, signaling the arrival of Hellcop.  If you ever doubt the originality of the film's script, just check out that name!  He beats up Lowe and takes Swanson away in his car, even taking time to lock her in his handcuffs...which are literally two hands chained together.  Incidentally, if you can't stand that obvious joke, you're really going to hate the rest of this movie!  After seeing the guy drive through a portal, Lowe goes back to the Gas Station for answers.  Apparently, there is a portal to Hell along that road and the owner lost his girlfriend to it back in the '50s.  He gives Lowe his old car (which still runs) and a shotgun to help him take out Hellcop.  He warns him that he only has until the next morning to get out of there with her.  Time to drive!
Instead of talking about the middle part of the film- which is kind of 'meh' as a whole- I'll talk about the random cameos.  In a Hell Diner, we see the Fry Cook, who is played by...Ben Stiller?!?
Stiller's mom is here as well, working as the Waitress in the Diner.  Who's next- his dad?
...apparently, yes.  He plays a Cop who ends up pissing off Hellcop.  Where do you go when you die in Hell?  New Jersey?
Stiller shows up again, since the filmmaker thought that we couldn't recognize him.  He plays Attila the Hun, who shares a table with Cleopatra (played by his sister) and Hitler (played by Gilbert Godfried).  I'll show you that last one a bit later.
Oh right- the plot.  Essentially, Lowe drives around for a bit, always just shy of catching up to Hellcop.  At one point, he actually does and shoots him with the gun.  Unlike Drive Angry, this gun doesn't do shit...which makes you wonder why it was so important that he got it.  He gets shot by it, but revived by the mechanic he met earlier.  Gee, I wonder if this guy is someone more important.  After a lot more driving and shooting, he finds his way to Swanson, killing Hellcop with his own gun.  If your gun is the only thing that can kill you, why do you carry it with you?  This is all a trick, however, as a demon was disguising herself as Swanson.  He finds the real one eventually and gets face-to-face with The Devil.  As it turns out, the Mechanic is Satan- I'm shocked.  He gives the duo a chance to escape, after Swanson rejects temptation.  This all builds up to a chase between our heroes, Hellcop and the bikers who keep popping up throughout the film.  The Chekhov's Gun of 'what is under the hood' comes into play, as it is a Nitro Booster.  They escape through the portal, but Hellcop follows.  Finally, they take the guy out by shooting him the eyes, a plot point that would later show up in Brimstone.  Some goofy Plot Wrap-Up and we have The End.
It's only sort of Terrible.  The plot of this film is pretty silly and predictable.  The whole thing never really feels like more than an assembly of random scenes that happen to be loosely-tied together.  Random comedy scenes- why?  I can accept that they wanted to make the film tongue-in-cheek, but this is ridiculous.  The fact that the entire Stiller family shows up here is odd.  Fun fact: the Jewish religion does not acknowledge the existence of Hell.  I'm sure that you can see why I mention that.  The thing about this movie is that it just chock full of really obvious jokes.  For example, Lowe stops along the highway for some road construction and sees the 'Good Intentions Paving Company.'  The road to Hell is literally paved with good intentions!  Ow- my soul hurts!  If you hate comedy like that, you will definitely think that this movie is Terrible.  As for me, it's just kind of dumb.  The only thing that pisses me off, however, is this: why don't they play the AC/DC song at all in the movie?!?  Why call it that and not deliver?  For shame!  Angrily take us away, Jewish guy playing Hitler...
Next up, I handle Maynard's choice of Beastly.  Can it be worse than a David DeCoteau film though?  Stay tuned...


  1. Hey, this was directed from Ate De Jong who also directed "Drop Dead Fred", one of my favorite guilty pleasures of all time - interested! :)

    You missed a few 'Round 2,5' links in the sidebar.

  2. Yeah, I honestly figured this one would lean more on the comedy side than anything else, but wasn't sure how terrible the comedy would be. For what it's worth, I'm glad it wasn't too awful. Or I would be, anyway, if you hadn't given me Blood Red Moon. So instead...I'll get you next time.

  3. Oh, I actually want to see this now. Random cameos... Gilbert Gottfried as Hitler? But no appearance of the AC/DC song? That's a little anticlimactic.

    Maynard!!! Drop Dead Fred is such a childhood love... I found it on YouTube a while ago and it brought back some great memories.

  4. Awesome film. Fun and funny and imaginative as hell.

    Horror-comedy, beginning in the early to mid-80s and ending in the early 90s, is a genre that gets no critical respect at all - it's an extremely disreputable genre, the films are almost all called horrible, because in a certain sense they are. But there's also no more consistently fun and enjoyable genre. Is this terrible? Yea. And so are Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Elvira, Waxwork, Warlock, Fright Night, Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad, CHUD II, Creepshow 2, Return of the Living Dead, Army of Darkness, and High Spirits. And you know what else all those films have in common? Fun as hell. Entertaining. Imaginative. Creative. Funny - usually on purpose, even.

    Scream and the recent The Cabin in the Woods - ostensibly horror-comedies - are way more analytical, more self-aware, more apologetic about the genre - these earlier films from the genre's glory period were horror that spoofed horror but did so lovingly - they weren't ashamed of being horror films, rather they were celebrations of the genre.

    Call it crap all you like, but Joss Whedon wishes he could make a movie half as fun as Highway to Hell.

    1. For the record, I love 'Return,' 'Elvira,' the 'Waxwork' films, 'Living Dead' and 'Army.' I don't really hate any of them, although 'CHUD II' is not that great.

      'Scream' and 'Cabin' are closer to Meta Horror Films than Horror Comedies. I don't think that they are ashamed of being Horror Films.

      'Highway' was just too obvious most of the time. The best example is the 'Road Paving' bit.

      Yes, we all know the expression 'The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.' That doesn't mean that we *literally* need to see the Road be paved with 'good intentions.' It's so on the nose that it's almost insulting.

      That all said, 'Highway' is not even in the Top 10 Worst Films I've seen, nor is it in the Top 10 Worst Project Terrible films either.

      If you liked it, fine. I just didn't think it was that good.

  5. The question I have is…how did you find this film, and how did you find it in WIDESCREEN?!

    1. There is no secret to it. It was on Streaming via Netflix.

      I don't know whether is still is, as I haven't watched it since the review back in 2011.

      As for the Format, that's just what it was in.