FILM REVIEWS

‘Highway to Hell’ (1991)

Highway to Hell

Highway to Hell (1991)

It seems reasonable if Dante Alighieri went into hell by foot in the 14th century, hundreds of years later that road would be littered with cars. Charles Sykes (Chad Lowe) and his girlfriend Rachel Clark (Kristy Swanson) race through the desert on their way to Las Vegas to get married. Along the way, Kristy is kidnapped by a demon cop who is outfitted with pentagrams instead of badges and severed demon hands chained together instead of handcuffs. Desperate to get her back, Charles seeks out Sam (Richard Farnsworth), a gas station attendant who warned him earlier about driving that stretch of highway at night. When asked to use his phone, Sam emphatically informs Charles that “you can’t phone hell, boy. You can drive there, but you can’t phone hell.” Fortunately, Sam has a hot rod ready to loan that will get Charles there. There is nothing subtle about Highway to Hell, but it is good fun in the vein of Beeltlejuice (1988) with its contemplations on who will be doing what in the afterlife and the parallels of hell as a highway. Hell proper is actually a city where all roads on this plane lead, but most of the fun is getting there by way of a diner where cops exist in anguish in the absence of coffee and a strip club owned by Jimmy Hoffa. The strip club comes complete with a card game between Hitler (Gilbert Gottfried) and Attila the Hun (Ben Stiller). After seeing this, I think someone should have further explored Gottfried as Hitler; it works on a lot of levels. My favorite moment is a scene where Charles comes across the Good Intentions Paving Company. Director Ate de Jong’s English language directorial credits include Drop Dead Fred (1991) featuring Rik Mayall of The Young Ones and a 1987 episode of Miami Vice that featured James Brown. Highway to Hell fits well into that canon. The humor in Highway to Hell is bludgeoning, but smart enough to be engaging. The action is low budget and contained  in the restraints of late 80s- early 90s special effects in the way you want it to be.

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