Road to Hell (2013)
Director: Albert Pyun
Deborah Van Valkenburgh/Sister
A lost soul (Michael Pare) heads back home in the hopes of being saved by his lost love and to ignite a relationship with his long lost daughter (Roxy Gunn). Alas he gets stuck on a patch of desert road with a psycho chick (Clare Kramer) from hell and her lezzie squeeze (Courtney Peldon). A game of "who's on top" ensues.
Before I tackled ALBERT PYUN’s unofficial sequel to WALTER HILL’s 1984 cult classic STREETS OF FIRE, I actually sat down and watched STREETS OF FIRE for the first time. Yeah I know, long overdue, but the musical aspect of the picture kept me away from it for all them years (I loathe musicals). And yes once I finally saw it, I felt silly. The music was organic to the piece and it wasn’t your standard musical where peeps broke out into song and dance routines out of left field when they had shite to say. It’s now a favorite of mine. So after STREETS OF FIRE I popped in ROAD TO HELL and hey-ho! An all new ball game.
As the end credits rolled I could say that ROAD TO HELL had me by the boulders throughout and that I had a morbidly good time watching it. But at the same tine I had (and still have) a hard time deciding what to make of it. Although I love watching these types of movies, I'm not fond of having to write about them. They’re so tough to pin down. Hopefully I’ll figure out what’s what as I jolt down this drivel. ROAD TO HELL was definitely an art film, one that worked outside the rules and tossed the mold out the window to do its own thing. It was a very experimental effort, and it is to be taken as such. I can respect that. At the core of it, the film was about a broken man, who hopes that being re-united with his lost love will “fix him”. Ironically enough Michael Pare played a similar role in BAD MOON as a broken man (by a werewolf curse) that hopes that being re-united with his family will "fix him". But I digress.
The core of the film was Michael Pare’s somber, tortured and heart-wrenching showcase as Cody. F*cking Pare is such a pro, he can communicate so much via one glance at the camera or a certain physical stance. And his delivery was impeccable. Dude has grown some much as an actor over the years and here he was on top of his game. Pare was well backed by hot to trot Clare Kramer who relished in her twisted role (I saw her as the Devil trying to get Cody full on to the dark side "insert Darth Vader joke here"). The chemistry between the two was palpable and the flick came to life a notch higher every time they interacted. On her end Courtney Peldon was decent but was somewhat overshadowed by Pare's and Kramer's visceral show. Visually, Pyun's camera was mucho kinetic, I loved his use of close-ups, his zany angles and the green screen work although uneven (my negatives below) did result in giving the picture an eerie, nightmarish and otherworldly feel. And I think that was the point.
Now that I think of it, the way it came off was that our lead character was caught in some form of psychological/emotional purgatory for the bulk of the film; and the surrealistic desolate stretch of road he found himself trapped on acted as a potent metaphor for that. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it, who knows? Talk amongst yourselves. It was also swell to see Deborah Van Valkenburgh reprise her role of Cody's sister from Streets of Fire. Although her screen time was limited, she did a bang up job when she surfaced and reinforced the connection between the two films. Finally, I really boogied to the music here performed by the Roxy Gunn Project. Whether it was tunes from Streets of Fire (like Nowhere Fast) or original songs by the band, I was signed, sealed and delivered. I’d get their album! And yeah lead singer Roxy Gunn was pretty sweet to the retinas. It never hurts.
On the downside; the green screen didn't always work for me, sometime it felt like I was watching a video game from the 80's, specially when there was sudden movements (like a punch). The blending wasn’t tip-top, the editing was off in places and although Roxy Gunn was hypnotizing every time she sang a song, her subplot was only skimmed over and I craved further exploration of it. The same went for the Ellen role (played by Anita Leeman standing in for Diane Lane in Streets of Fire) who was also too underplayed. It was to the point that at first I thought the Ellen that Cody was pining for was his daughter of the same name. I was confused for a bit... till I pieced it together.
Making Cody a potential serial killer (Or is he? The film wasn’t 100% clear on that) was an odd choice. On its own, I could take it, but as a follow-up to Streets of Fire, I couldn't go along. I would've made him an alcoholic or something and the same point would have come across (Cody in the slumps, hoping Ellen will save him). But a killer? It just didn't sit well with me. But that's just moi hombres. You may feel differently. Lastly, the last act fell a tad short has it resolved its conflicts too easily or/and by way onscreen text. That took away from the impact the finale should've had. Loved the musical numbers though!
All in all, although ROAD TO HELL was flawed and totally out there. I couldn’t take my eyes off it! Probably cause it was flawed and totally out there. Think a static Natural Born Killers or even a stage play framed by rock ditties and zany visuals! If you like your Rum and Coke with a dash of Tequila; this one could be for you! I'm happy I saw it and I may even watch it again, it's that kind of movie!
Some blood and one nasty "gutting". I read reviews for what I am assuming was for an earlier cut claiming that the flick was tough to watch due to the violence, I didn't get that from the version I saw.
T & A
Chicks making out and Clare Kramer shows us her "Kramers". We're all better men for it.
I’ve been hearing about ROAD TO HELL for like 5 years now and it was gnarly to finally get to see it. Pare owned the show, Kramer rocked it and the music by Roxy Gunn was on the money. Furthermore Pyun's kinetic style and the trippy imagery often hit the mark while supporting the “purgatory” subtext of the piece. With that, the green screen work was uneven, having Cody be a maybe serial killer didn’t sit well with me when I took Streets of Fire into context and I didn’t dig that the film’s resolutions were settled so easily or/and via screen text. In closing, word has it that Pyun shot the bulk of the shoot in 3 days (not counting the musical numbers at the end) and it is a statement to his and his actors talent that they got what they got out of it. ROAD TO HELL was a tough film to corner and it won’t be for everybody and hey, that’s a good thing for this jerk! Arrow out!
Clare Kramer's character is the daughter of Raven (Willem Dafoe) from Streets of Fire.
Michael Pare sings with Roxy Gunn on the tight track Shelter Me.