Highway to Hell

(Ate de Jong, USA, 1992)


Highway to Hell is a surreal comic-book adventure in the mode of such inventive B movies as Cherry 2000 (1987) and Future Cop (1985).

An innocent teenage couple (Chad Lowe and Kristy Swanson) take a side road on their journey of elopement and end up in Hell – a desert landscape full of kitsch monuments, vicious android hell-cops and deranged biker gangs in search of a new Mad Max movie. The Devil himself comes in the suave form of Patrick Bergin.

In this camp fairytale, offering itself as a hip remake of The Wizard of Oz (1939), the young hero must undergo endless trials in order to save his virgin bride – unless, of course, she has already given herself to the wily Devil.

As directed by Ate De Jong (who made the criminally underrated Drop Dead Fred [1991]), the film is a colourful patchwork of movie references, games with mirrors and humorous black visions of what a modern-day Hell would be.

The film also has a pleasing abundance of instances of the kind of pulp poetry common to many horror and fantasy films – like the sudden apparition of a Ship of the Dead floating on the lake between Hell and Earth, or the folk wisdom offered by a helpful gas station attendant: “You can drive to Hell, but you can’t phone there!”

Highway to Hell is, in short, essential viewing for any passionate popular culture buff.

© Adrian Martin August 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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