• Highway To Hell



    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: February 2, 2016
    Director: Ate de Jong
    Cast: Patrick Bergin, Kristy Swanson, Chad Lowe, Pamela Gidley, Richard Farnsworth
    Year: 1991
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    The Movie:

    Charlie Sykes (Chad Lowe) is so anxious to get to home base with Rachel (Kristy Swanson) that he's been driven to desperate measures. Before Rachel gives up her virginity to him in the backseat of his Ford Pinto, she's demanding a ring on her finger; hence the hastily-prepared non-stop road trip to Las Vegas to tie the knot with his shaggy dog Ben tagging along. Paranoid and jittery, Charlie is convinced after an evening meal at a roadside diner that a highway cop is following him, prompting him to take a wild and fast detour onto the foreboding Black Canyon Road. A consultation of the map (hell no, there was no GPS back in '91) shows that the Black Canyon Road is a straight line to Vegas, Charlie's paranoid fears somewhat quelled by the idea of staying off of the main roads. A quick stop for re-fueling at the Last Chance Gas Station introduces the couple to Sam, a grizzled old man with an ominous warning; under no circumstances should they stop on the Black Canyon Road until they've passed the second Joshua tree.

    With a "Sure thing, old timer" smile, Charlie and Rachel once again hit the road to Vegas chapel wedding bells. But when Rachel falls asleep and fails to provide Charlie with enough company to keep him awake, he drifts off behind the wheel...and drifts off of the road! Worse yet, the flashing siren of a cruiser makes the scene, and it's worse than Charlie could have imagined; a police office, literally from Hell, his face etched with stories of torment, his uniform emblazoned with pentagrams, his handcuffs actual severed hands, leaves smokey bootprints as he stalks towards their car. The Hellcop quickly takes Charlie out of the action with minimal effort, and when he regains consciousness, Charlie finds Hellcop and Rachel gone.

    Returning to Sam's with his tale of terror, Charlie hear Sam's similar tale of woe, of a night long ago when he also met the Hellcop with his bride-to-be, Clara. Telling Charlie of the "Road within a Road"....an actual Highway To Hell...Sam equips him with a 1940 Ford V8 De Luxe, a fancy-looking double-barrel shotgun, and another warning, to get in and out of Hell with Rachel within 24 hours, or be stuck there....FOREVER. While some may assume that retrieving their virgin girlfriend from Satan's lair would be a walk in the park, those people would be wrong. Biker gangs, demon dopplegangers, dangerous strip clubs, donut shops of the damned, Charon and Cerberus provide no end of danger, and that's not even taking into account Hellcop Sergeant Bedlam and the Horned One. Charlie wants his beautiful virgin back in his arms; but can those arms beat off The Devil Himself?

    In case you couldn't tell by the description, 1991's Highway To Hell is not going to be regarded as a serious endeavor into the realm of filmmaking by the masses. Given that Director Ate de Jong's previous film was the zanily amusing Drop Dead Fred (RIP Rik Mayall) and Writer Brian Helgeland was the creative force behind 976-EVIL, a big grain of goofy salt can be taken with this venture. Still, silliness aside, Highway To Hell has a lot to offer as far as entertainment value. There are essentially zero boring moments found in the 94 minute runtime. ZERO. In the way that Lynch composes every frame as a beautiful work of art, Highway To Hell delivers every frame as a wacky novelty postcard. The premise is fast and simple; the delivery immediately to the point; and the payoff worth the trip.

    Points also go to an especially strong cast, from the stars right down to the cameos. Chad Lowe is perfectly believable in this unbelievable environment, bringing the charm of a down-to-earth guy out of his element. Kristy Swanson brings all of the charisma to the screen that she would later display as Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Patrick Bergin as the Dark Lord, Lita Ford's cleavage, three Stillers and Gilbert Gottfried as Hitler; a treasure trove of the bizarre that will no doubt raise eyebrows and cause hearty chuckles. And of course, the Hellcop himself; C.J. Graham, everybody's favourite (well, mine, anyway) Jason. This is your season ticket on a one-way ride, and your chance to take everything in stride with no stop signs or speed limit to slow you down.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Highway To Hell comes to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in a 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer that looks...adequate. Though we've come to expect a certain level of non-restoration when it comes to KL, this one exhibits some bumps and bruises in the form of dirt and scratches that looks a tad bit worse than the usual KL offerings. Still, the picture for the most part is decent, with good detail and a healthy amount of grain, and is relatively free from compression issues and other transfer problems.

    An English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track does a great job of conveying the soundtrack, with dialogue clear and consistent, and well balanced with the rest of the soundstage. Dynamics are good, and it lacks any hisses or pops. Certain scenes definitely bring out the texture more, such as some of the chase scenes, but it's altogether a solid stereo effort.

    In the supplements menu, an interview with SFX Make-up artist Steve Johnson (10:47) provides an entertaining look at the practical effects used in the film. Among other things, Steve talks about meeting Director Ate de Jong for the first time and their conflicts on the set of the film, being inspired by Clive Barker, and the joys of doing meth to maintain strenuous work hours.

    A commentary with Director Ate de Jong will be a great bonus for fans of the film. Running the length of the feature, de Jong is easy to understand despite his accent, and provides a non-stop assault of information pertaining to the filming, the cast, and every aspect of the wonder that is Highway to Hell.

    A Trailer and an Animated Image Gallery (a slideshow of production stills) are also included.

    The Final Word:

    Highway To Hell is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and those people are probably wrong. It's low-brow, ridiculous, not scary, and barely funny. But it is 94 minutes of stupidly entertaining film, and the Kino Blu-ray offers a decent way to see it.



    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!