Mar 30, 2015
Any film featuring dozens up dozens of Andy Warhols doing manual slave labor in hell cannot be totally bad, even if it stars a little turd like Chad Lowe pretending to be a macho hero, neo-vaudevillian buffoon Ben Stiller and most of his family portraying lowclass working-class goyim, and singularly obnoxious and spastic Judaic jackass Gilbert Gottfried doing by far the worst and most exceedingly embarrassing Hitler impersonation in all of cinema history. Indeed, Highway to Hell (1991) directed by Dutch quasi-arthouse auteur turned failed Hollywood hack Ate de Jong (Blindgangers aka Blind Spot, Drop Dead Fred) is an extravagantly botched celluloid abortion with ridiculously retarded acting as performed by some of the most uniquely insufferable Hollywood whores, fiercely frivolous and seemingly flatulence-driven elevator music, blatantly fetishistic philistine humor, and incessant moronic goofiness, among various irritating things yet somehow I like the film and consider it a kitsch cult classic of sorts. While de Jong’s film might also be one big odyssey of the odiously moronic that shits on all of Occidental history and features annoying Jewish kids that look like terminally ill cancer patients and a patently pathetic pint-sized male hero with a silly dog sidekick, it is actually a reasonably bizarre and entertaining loose-as-a-Detroit-crack-whore reworking of the classic ancient Greek myth of Orpheus set in a hermetic route 666 on the way to America’s little Sodom of Las Vegas. Much like the Hollywood films of fellow Dutchman Paul Verhoeven and de Jung’s most popular work Drop Dead Fred (1991), which was incidentally released earlier the same year, Highway to Hell is a film with two layers, with one layer that was made to appeal to the lowbrow ‘bread and circus’ American majority and another layer to appeal to more discerning viewers with some sort of understanding of classic Western philosophy, history, and spirituality, but as the director stated in an interview with Fangoria, “You don't need to comprehend the second level to make this film work for you. If you miss the second level, you missing nothing.” Penned and produced by Norwegian-American screenwriter Brian Helgeland who was previously responsible for writing hokey horror trash like 976-EVIL (1988) directed by Robert ‘Freddy Krueger’ Englund and and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) and who would later go on to write more ‘respectable’ works like Mystic River (2003), this sometimes campy and oftentimes irreverent Orpheus molestation may be plagued by a virtual army of ugly kosher comedians and a storm of infantile humor but it ultimately has a traditional Western heart and spirit beneath all the seemingly Semitic stupidity. Trashed by lapsed Satanist Nikolas Schreck—the estranged son-in-law of Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey who was a prominent figure in left-hand path movements in the 1980s and 1990s but eventually renounced Satanism and converted to Tantric Buddhism in 2003—in his book The Satanic Screen: An Illustrated Guide to the Devil in Cinema (2001) as having “…the filmsy feel of an extended heavy metal music video, and the picture’s trite depiction of the Satanic realm is firmly grounded in that juvenile aesthetic” yet failing to realize it is a Orphic flick that mocks the whole “heavy metal music video” aesthetic instead of embracing it, Highway to Hell is ultimately an eccentrically epic piece of strangely dignified trash with something bordering on a decent message hidden under all the juvenile Judaic jokes.
Charlie Sykes (Chad Lowe) is a short and scrawny pedomorphic pizza delivery boy with a barely working piece-of-shit car who has somehow managed to make a beauteous blonde babe named Rachel Clark (Kristy Swanson of Flowers in the Attic (1987) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)) not only fall in love with him, but also agree to marry him. Indeed, the ostensible all-American couple are headed to Las Vegas to get hitched on a whim without telling anyone, although Rachel left her mother a note about the big news so that she won’t get worried. On the way to Vegas, Charlie becomes paranoid that a cop is following him, so he decides to take an alternate route and eventually stops at a rather remote gas station where a nice, if not somewhat strange, old fart named Sam (Richard Farnsworth of David Lynch’s The Straight Story (1999)) attempts to warn him and his girlfriend not to take the alternate route and even offers to allow the two to sleep in a cozy cabin that he has behind his store. Of course, chump Charlie does not take heed of Sam’s warnings, including that he should keep his eyes out for two Joshua trees and to never pull over for any reason until he passes the second one. Ultimately, Charlie falls asleep at the wheel right before passing the second Joshua tree and subsequently experiences the nightmare of a lifetime after being pulled over by a pernicious policeman named ‘The Hellcop’ (C. J. Graham, who played Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986))—a demonic zombie-like cop from Hades with a pentagram for a badge, discernibly tall Nordic frame and bald dolichocephalic skull with Biblical quotes carved into his skin (notably, FX designer Steven Johnson credited Clive Barker's series Books of Blood as the influence for the look)—who rips the passenger door off of his car, pulls Rachel out and locks her in his patrol car, and beats up the protagonist and his fluffy white dog Mr. Ben. Needless to say, startled bitch boy Charlie immediately goes back to old man Ben and learns that his girlfriend has been taken to a supernatural “road within a road” called ‘The Highway to Hell’ where he has 24 hours to find his girlfriend or both of them will trapped in hell for eternity. As it turns out, Sam’s own fiancée Clara (Pamela Gidley of Thrashin' (1986) and Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)) disappeared on the same road 50 years before and ever since then he has been waiting in vain for her to come back. Ultimately, Sam equips Charlie with a specially made sawed-off shotgun designed by Clara with special ammo and a fancy old antique car with a special attribute that the protagonist neglects to discover until at the very moment he needs to use it most.
To enter the Highway to Hell, Charlie has to first ‘believe in it,’ so while attempting to break on through to the fire and brimstone side while driving like a maniac, he is pulled by a real cop who he mistakes for the Hell Cop and moronically pulls his shotgun on, thus resulting in a car chase between two grade A wusses that concludes with the protagonist finally being transported to the desert netherworld. Meanwhile, Hellcop takes Rachel to a sleazy satanic diner called ‘Pluto’s Donuts’ that is inhabited by grotesque dead zombie cops that have bbeen waiting around for what seems like a eternity for service as Ben Stiller’s shiksa mother Anne Meara, who plays a whorish waitress with the curious name Medea, dreams of jumping on the skinheaded zombicop’s undead cock. Rather fittingly, Jerry Stiller plays a bitchy desk cop whose incessant bitching annoys the perennially mute Hellcop so much that he zaps him with his special gun while Rachel manages to escape by pouring coffee on the zombie handcuffs she is bound to. Upon running out of the diner, Rachel runs into a degenerate archetypical swarthy and greasy white trash cook played by Ben Stiller who cooks food on the hot asphalt and who offers the leading lady a nasty piece of steak which she turns down, thus inspiring the creepy culinary artist to call her a “vegetarian bitch.” Of course, it does not take long for Rachel to get captured, as a dickheaded degenerate named Royce (Adam Storke)—a moronic metalhead and true rebel without a cause who is more or less the Devil’s failed protégé—and his gang of half-braindead biker bastards soon find her running through the desert and decide to defile her due to her glaring virginal essence. Ultimately, instead of popping her cherry, Royce hands Rachel over to Hellcop, but with the stipulation that he “owes him.” Notably, Royce’s ‘old lady’ is Sam’s long-lost fiancée Clara, who still has all her beauty intact and takes a Sapphic interest in Rachel, who is clearly not interested. As she later reveals during the film, Clara is not the perfect pussy on a pedestal that Sam imagined her to be, as she was not an actual victim of the devil but instead decided to stay in hell of her own free will because she thought eternal damnation would be cool and did not think she need her fiancé.
After a run-in with cunt-rocker Lita Ford that ends with him having to literally blow off the head of a conspicuously crazed cannibalistic ice cream man that threatens to scoop his brains out, as well as a Rebel Without a Cause (1955) style showdown with Royce and his gang of buffoonish bastard bikers, Charlie finds himself with some serious car damage and needs oil. Luckily, a ‘Satanic Mechanic’ with an ‘AAA’ (Anarchy, Armageddon, Annihilation) sticker on his tow truck named ‘Beezle’ (Irishman Patrick Bergin)—a fellow whose name alludes to his real identity as ‘Beelzebub’ (otherwise known as the Devil)—offers to fix Charlie’s car free of charge. Apparently, Beezle has the power to fix a lot more than just automobiles and he has an adopted sickly Jewish child apprentice named Adam (Jarrett Lennon) that was purportedly brought to him by the Devil to be mentored. Since Charlie is in a hurry, he leaves Beezle’s auto-shop immediately after he finishes fixing his car, not realizing that little Jewboy Adam has decided to join him and has attached himself to the side of the protagonist's car. On his way to save Rachel, Charlie spots a virtual army of Andy Warhol doppelgangers—retarded blond wig and autistic mannerisms and all—working on the road, guiding traffic, and grinding up murderously salacious sinners in a giant machine that turns their body into mince meat. At around this point, little Adam startles Charlie by jumping into the car and the protagonist subsequently promises to take him back to the mortal realm after finding Rachel.
Eventually after doing much driving on the otherworldly satanic open-road, Charlie ends up at a casino populated by evil historical figures like Hitler (Gilbert Gottfried), Cleopatra (Ben Stiller’s sister Amy Stiller), and Attila the Hun (unfortunately, Ben Stiller again) where he finds Rachel trapped inside a stripper cage. Although Charlie manages to get Rachel out of the cage, the lovers' reunion is short-lived as Hell Cop soon shows up and seemingly kills the protagonist by blowing a hole through his stomach with a shotgun. Luckily, Adam takes it upon himself to get help for the protagonist by getting Mr. Fix-It aka Beezle, who manages to perfectly repair Charlie’s seemingly fatal wounds while a pathologically neurotic Hitler attempts to convince a vain valley-girl-like Cleopatra that he is not actually Hitler, but a 17-year-old suburban metalhead that likes playing guitar. Great Ugandan dictator Idi Amin also receives a “white courtesy call” at the casino but he never shows up to pick it up. Notably, there are spots reserved at the satanic casino for Imelda Marcos, Muammar Gaddafi, Jerry Lewis, and P.W. Botha. Charlie has to get to Hell City and Bezzle dubiously recommends taking the “Road to Nowhere” as a shortcut where the protagonist ultimately ends up at a cave in the desert where he finds Hellcop’s car. Clara shows up at the cave and attempts to warn Charlie to take a different route, but the would-be-pretty-boy protagonist is drunk on heroism and ignores her advice. Upon entering deeper into the cave, Charlie enters a misleadingly angelic pastel pink, white, and yellow room where he finds Rachel gagged and bound to a bed in a S&M/BDSM fashion and he soon fights Hellcop and somehow manages to zap the zombicop to death after being thrown around for a little bit like a little ragdoll. Needless to say, Charlie subsequently unties Rachel from the bed but is startled by his virginal fiancée's uncharacteristic behavior after she aggressively attempts to get him to deflower right then and there. Upon seeing Rachel’s reflection in the mirror, he notices she is not his statuesque fiancée but a lethally lecherous demoness that resembles a cross between a gremlin and an elderly negress with grotesquely saggy tits. Luckily, Charlie manages to send her straight to the pits of hell, but he does not have his girlfriend and upon leaving the cave, he realizes everything was an illusion as Hellcop’s police car and various other objects randomly disappear into thin air, thus making it quite obvious that he should have followed Clara's advice.
After spending too much idle time on nothing Charlie begins chasing Hellcop on the highway to Hell City that is full of speeding vintage Volkswagen car, thus indicating that Hitler must have transferred his auto industry to the underworld after blowing his brains out in his Berlin bunker in 1945. When Charlie eventually gets to the gates to Hell City, he realizes he has to cross water with the electric sign: “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter,” but he is a mortal and not a damned lost soul, so he has to get creative. After his dog Mr. Ben helps him avoid being eaten by a three-headed hellhound by pissing near the beast, Charlie encounters a creepy negro Muslim with his eyes sewed up named Charon (played by Kevin Peter Hall of Predator fame, who died of AIDS the same year that the film was released, in his final acting role) who reluctantly allows him to take the boat ride into Hell City since he believes that rules should be broken. Upon arriving at the Prince of Darkness’ palace, Charlie finds Rachel in no time, but instead of being in a prison cell or something like that, his fiancée is living a life of luxury and is learning to become a professional violinist. When the Devil finally arrives, he acts fairly charming and after a small argument he agrees to allow Charlie and Rachel leave so long as they “don’t look back.” Before going back to earth, Charlie takes Rachel to Beezle’s place to honor his promise to bring little Adam back to earth. Ultimately, Charlie soon discovers that Beezle and the Devil are the same guy and he makes a wager that if he can beat Hell Cop in a race, he can take Peter back to earth but if he loses Rachel has to stay in hell on her own free will. Of course, good wins and love conquers all in the end.
Somewhat shockingly, auteur Ate de Jong made one notable, albeit semi-cryptic, reference to his Dutch background towards the end of Highway to Hell in a scene where Early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch’s masterpiece triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights can be seen hanging on the wall of Satan's lush palace. Personally, I think that it was a rather wise choice on Jong’s part as the film is like a degenerate version of the painting in hopelessly 1990s celluloid form. Also, like the painting, the film features an otherworldly realm that transcends the typically fine line between heaven and hell, as well as paradise and purgatory and the gorgeous and grotesque. After all, I think a good percentage of people would not mind hanging around the surrealist realm contained within film for a little bit of time, as it certainly beats the real-life multicultural hell that exists in the United States and Europe nowadays, plus nobody would turn down the opportunity to see Warhol doing slave labor. Ultimately, Highway to Hell is a very strange and suprisingly ambitious and, in turn, convoluted work that was bound to fail commercially in that is features a curious intersection between the most moronic of Hollywood neo-Vaudevillian stupidity, a vague subtextual European arthouse perspective, random slasher conventions (as personified by the iconic killer ‘Hellcop’), as well as references or allusions to countless films, including Jean Cocteau’s Orphic Trilogy (The Blood of a Poet, Orpheus, Testament of Orpheus), Mad Max (1979), Back to the Future (1985), The Lost Boys (1987), and Beetlejuice (1988), among various other works, thereupon making for one truly peculiar and undeniably entertaining piece of postmodern celluloid purgatory.
Quite shockingly, de Jong’s film was not the only American mutation of the Orpheus myth made during the 1990s, as Robert McGinley’s little known dystopian cult flick Shredder Orpheus (1990) features the eponymous tragic hero as a skaterboarder-cum-rocker who must save his beloved Eurydice in a Hades that is in the fitting form of a television network that is run by Svengali-like individuals that bear a striking resemble to cocksucking kraut new wave countertenor Klaus Nomi. Of course, there is also other notable cinematic reworking of the classic Greek myth, including the negrified Brazilian Palme d'Or and Academy Award winning work Black Orpheus (1959) aka Orfeu Negro directed by French auteur Marcel Camus, which was later remade by Carlos Diegues as Orfeu (1999), as well as the East German 70mm DEFA production Orpheus in der Unterwelt (1975) aka Orpheus in the Underworld directed by Horst Bonnet and based on a scandalous play by Prussian-born French Jewish composer Jacques Offenbach. Contemporary Greek auteur Nikos Nikolaidis, who is probably best known for his salaciously brutal work Singapore Sling: The Man Who Loved a Corpse (1990), also revamped the myth for his debut feature Evridiki BA 2O37 (1975) aka Euridice BA 2O37 and French auteur Jacques Demy even paid tribute to Jean Cocteau's 1950 version Orpheus with his rock musical Parking (1985). In terms of queer Orphic works, the Belgian-Dutch-French co-production Mascara (1987)—a work where hell is depicted as an underground S&M opera house where trannys performance for degenerate politicians and other bigwigs—is probably the most flagrant and flamboyant in its flavorsome faggotry. Out of all these various versions of the Orpheus myth, Highway to Hell is indubitably the most modernized, arguably the most idiosyncratic, and certainly the most Hollywoodized as a work that provides an absurdist nonsensical happy ending to an ancient Greek tragedy. Although unbelievable to think about nowadays, there was actually talk of a Highway to Hell sequel, but of course that never happened because the film was a huge flop. Indubitably, director de Jong had delusional hopes for the film, as he was anticipating the flick would make him famous as reflected by a remark he made in Fangoria just before the film was released where he explained, “I'm a nobody right now...When this film comes out, maybe I won't be.” Clearly, de Jong had no clue how innately whacked out his film really was, as Highway to Hell not only resulted in his swift exist from Hollywood and his return to the Netherlands, but also his banishment to the netherworld of television where he would stay until somewhat recently until he began making much maligned Hollywood-esque Dutch efforts like Het Bombardement (2012). Indeed, de Jung might now be an insufferable hack who went from arthouse to the aesthetically autistic and asinine, but he at least managed to directed two American cult classics, Drop Dead Fred and Highway to Hell, which temporary offered American youth relief from the aesthetic sterility of Hebraic (un)holywood. Indeed, if there is a sort of Fellini Satyricon (1969) of horror-comedies in terms of a celluloid odyssey that combines the epic with the eccentric, it is most certainly Highway to Hell.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:43 AM
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