By Sean McLaughlin
Lost amongst the chaos of the recent “found-footage” avalanche is a cinematic style that I can actually appreciate: the â€œfilm within a film” genre. Last year’s perplexingly-popular slash-fest V/H/S managed to combine both styles – but I digress. Screamkings/Untold Horror’s film Road Hell does a commendable job of blending three tales of classic horror within a main story of an absurdly dysfunctional couple and their fateful stop at a seedy motel. Taking incredibly liberal usage of both disgusting sounds and bodily fluids, Road Hell provides the quick-pace action and speedy storytelling that normally compliments the multi-story arc genus to an interesting and entertaining level.
The movie begins with a Jersey Shore reject and her adulterous yuppie lawyer husband heading to the Hamptons on a weekend getaway. These over-the-top stereotypes certainly need a vacation, but more from each other than anything else. Jaclyn Marfuggi and Jim Hazleton portray the rage-filled and pill-popping couple, whose forced detour at a sleazy backwoods motel creates the immoral segue for the three horror tales to be played out in hallucinatory fashion. I do have to say, both actors bring their A-Game to such classless roles. These separate tales are uneven in both pace and relevance, but each does possess a big positive. They all focus upon a different horror movie staple: vampires, zombies, and mythical killer creatures.
Deep Into the Rabbit Holefocuses on the latter. The true horror vibe is much appreciated here, as a mysterious creature deep in the woods begins killing pets and kids alike. Director Pete Jacelone does a good job of showcasing that certain sense of innocence that children bring to film, which sharply contrasts with the harsh violence that they are subjected to. The gore is plentiful as the kid body count increases”Â¦..pretty ballsy move for any director. This is the longer of the three, and deservedly so. It’s the best and the stronger story, horribly cheesy animal head props and laughable computer-generated graphics aside.
Jacelone’s other effort, the zombie romp “Zombies! Zombies! Everywhere!,”Â takes a swing and doesn’t necessarily miss”Â¦.it’s more like a foul tip. Going back to the humorous atmosphere, a reporter follows along with self-professed “zombie exterminator”Â Dan “The Man”Â Spencer (Edward X. Young) as he goes searching for the ghouls’ hive. Jacelone attempts to play the voyeuristic “PC”Â crowd against old-school lunacy with the hard-nosed hunter facing off with the liberal, unsympathetic media. Beyond that, however, there’s no real point, action or resolution. “Zombies!”Â is short, which is a plus. It also briefly tackles the sensitive subject of the “evolving”Â zombie, and whether or not they can run (they CAN’T!). Or can they? Again, “Zombies!”Â is low on answers (where did the zombies come from?), and high on confusion.
The first story presented in Road Hell is the ambitious vampire tale “The One”Â. While not my favorite, I will admit that it has its moments did have the most elaborate plot in the entire movie. Austin Dossey plays twins Dwayne and Derek, one twin seeking revenge for the other from a community of the undead (and one vamp in particular). Alex Pucci takes the directing helm here. While the acting from the major players is so-so, the real disappointment here is the writing. Not enough time is given for proper development, character or otherwise. This segment would’ve been better served to be more graphic (an “orgy”Â scene with no orgy, for instance). But by and large, the erotic seriousness of the much-romanticized vampire genre brings a nice change-of-pace to the film (even if it appears at the beginning).
One final act of horrific aggression bring Road Hell to a close, and a welcome sense of closure to the viewer. This film brings an entertaining sense of unevenness and amusement to the film-within-a-film horror set, much in the vein of Cat’s Eye, Creepshow, and (*gulp*) Tales from the Hood. Road Hell utilizes a clever device (dividing up into separate, unrelated stories) to hold the audience’s interest without losing much in the way of entertainment value. If you get the chance, check out the DVD. At the very least, I can assure that you won’t feel the familiar urge to turn off the TV halfway through, a common problem with indy horror releases nowadays.