Route 666 (2001)
Director: William Wesley
Lou Diamond Phillips/Jack
A group of Feds escorting a “witness” mosey down a haunted piece of road believing it to be a shortcut. Bad move, dudes. They encounter the unhappy spirits of a dead “chain gang” who have lots of “construction” gear and who know how to use it. Let the good times roll?
I’m a big fan of William Wesley’s first feature “Scarecrows”. Taking into account that the man hasn’t directed “jack all” since then (1988), I was expecting a lot out of this one. Did it live up to my expectations?
Well, "Route 666" starts off with an original premise and a groovy shootout sequence but unfortunately it never reaches its full potential. You would think that a film featuring dead convicts offing people with construction equipment would generate some kind of tension. WRONG! I didn’t feel shit. I do applaud Wesley for shooting all of the stalk sequences in the day though. Quite a ballsy move (and cost-effective in terms of lighting) but his knack of shaking the camera like an epileptic on cocaine every time the ghosts came into play, murdered any potential for suspense and just gave me a splitting headache instead.
Script-wise, the flick had me half the time. The corrupt lawmen are pretty amusing. One drinks like an Irish man on a binge, two other ones like to play “doctor” in the backseat of the van instead of doing their jobs and there’s even an unnecessary fistfight that surfaces between two agents for no other reason than to give us a kool fisticuffs sequence. MY KIND OF AGENTS! The dialogue is pretty hip (maybe a bit too hip) with references to that alcoholic tramp Farrah Fawcett and “The X-Files”. Also, 80 percent of the jargon that comes out of Steven “motor mouth” Williams’ trap is pretty damn funny. The dude cracked my ass up!
On a negative note, did we really need that token “Indian” sequence? All he did was ramble on, be vague and slow the movie down. And what wuz up with all of the subplots? It almost felt like a failed attempt at a horror version of “Pulp Fiction”. Should’ve kept it simpler. And why weren’t the Feds slightly impressed or scared for that matter when it came to the “chain gang” ghosts? If I ‘d been there, I would’ve hightailed my ass out of there. Fuck sightseeing at a cemetery. I’m O-U-T, OUT!
In the end, "Route 666" is filled with plot holes (Williams survives two attacks handcuffed to a car…come on!), isn’t scary for shit, is sometimes very silly (that whole father angle and the way the film’s main villain buys it) but it's still somewhat entertaining. I was never really bored while watching the flick; I liked the basic idea, enjoyed some of the action sequences, loved Steven Williams, appreciated the “different” looking un-dead and laughed a few times (sometimes for the wrong reasons). You can do better than this B-slice of pie but you can also do way worse (think "Children Of The Living Dead"). Hop on this road????
The gore is so-so; I would’ve liked more of the red stuff. We do get cut off fingers (ouch!), jackhammer in the stomach and bullets wounds.
Lou Diamond Phillips (Jack) does a good job overall but does showcase some tiny moments of bad acting though. Lori Petty (Steph) still has that charm that made me lust after her when I saw “Point Break” but for the love of god girl, let your hair and eyebrows grow in! I would sometimes mistake you for Steven Williams! Speaking of Steven Williams (Rabbit), the man brings a well-needed dose of energy and humor to the film. His one liner spitting performance amused the shite out of me. He over-killed the line “I know my rights” though. Dale Midkiff (PT) is just great at playing a-holes (see "Crow: Salvation"), and here, he does it again. Alex McArthur (Nick) was awesome in “Rampage” but it's too bad that his part here is a throwaway. Mercedes Colon (Mary) also has a very thin part, she kind of looks like a low rent version of J-LO. LQ Jones (Sheriff) does the “hick” yahoo thang perfectly.
T & A
Do Lori Petty’s drawn-in eyebrows count?
Although I dug the occasional slow motion shot, the flashy directing and the gnarly camera angles, what wuz up with the constant shaky cam every time the ghosts appeared? Any chance for tension was killed by that damn milkshake effect. It’s a horror movie dude, not “Days Of Thunder”.
An adequate “guitar twang” score that fit the surroundings in which the story takes place.
"Route 666" is flawed and far from the cult classic ”Scarecrows” is but it still sports a good cast, a few laughs and decent action. I’ll compare it to my prom night: even though the Prom Queen tells you to get lost, that doesn’t mean you can’t get head off the ugly, drunk girl who’s starting to look good”. Take that and do what you will with it…
The king of genre cameos, Dick Miller, makes an appearance here as a bartender.
Steven Williams was originally set to play PT, but when the actor playing Rabbit got canned...he got the role. Lou Diamond Phillips called in a favor and got Dale Midkiff to come in days before shooting to play PT.
Steven Williams played the enigmatic informer “X” on the X-Files.