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JoeBobGoes to the Drive-In: Hell's Highway

By JOE BOB BRIGGS, Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas

Hitchhiking in a horror movie is not recommended. But ever since "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," we know that there's one thing WORSE than hitchhiking in a horror movie. That would be PICKING UP a hitchhiker in a horror movie.

Writer/director Jeff Leroy has obviously done his "Chain Saw" homework with his new movie "Hell's Highway," including several actual chainsaw-as-a-weapon-of-death scenes. But unfortunately his antagonist, the Psycho Bimbo Devil Woman from Death Valley, is not quite up to the task.

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Phoebe Dollar is a little bitty ole thing, and when she tries to hold that Black-and-Decker overhead and twirl around like Leatherface, it looks like a girl who's never played baseball before trying to pitch for the Yankees.

This is the old story of the two couples from Pittsburgh driving a retrofitted hearse cross-country, racing against their friends to Redondo Beach while consuming massive quantities of beer and hash.

When they spot a little tootsie of a hitchhiker along the lonely desert highway, the guys want to stop -- of COURSE -- and the girls don't. Since a guy is driving, they invite the bug-eyed, oversexed Lucinda into their vehicle, and she proceeds to put on a show for the "Blair Witch" camcorder guy in the back seat.

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It starts to get weird when Lucinda assaults the lovely Sarah with a revolver and threatens to kill all of them. They shove her out onto the pavement and haul buns, but, of course, we all know -- the hitchhiker never goes away. This is one of those "What the hell IS she?" kinda movies, with a trick ending that involves secret military experiments in the desert. (Shades of "The Hills Have Eyes.")

She's either the devil, the devil's minion, the ghost of a pioneer woman who cannibalized her own husband, a supernatural slime monster, a plain ole serial killer, or a cyborg. She gets killed SEVERAL times, but she always comes back for more.

The acting is uneven, but the story does satisfy the first rule of drive-in movie-making: anybody can die at any moment. And you've gotta love a movie that has a sequence with porn legend Ron Jeremy as a bitter film producer who picks up the diabolical hitchhiker and is rewarded by getting disemboweled with a butcher knife while he's driving.

If you know Ron Jeremy, you know that that is NOT a small tummy, and it's actually believable that he could be stabbed pretty deeply there and not realize it for a long, long time.

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And those drive-in totals are:

Fourteen dead bodies. Eight breasts. Shovel skull-splitting. Multiple stomach-gouging. Cold-beer fondling. Blood-spitting. Aardvarking. Chainsaw through the gizzards. Bullet through the eyeball. Exploding military facility. Motor-vehicle body-crushing. Torso-dragging. One crash-and-burn, with explosion. Gratuitous slimy-creature attack. Heads roll. Arm rolls. Holy water Fu. Chainsaw Fu. Shotgun Fu.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Kiren David, best actress in the bunch, as the "final girl" who has psychic communications with the Psycho Killer, for saying "This is horrible!"; Phoebe Dollar, as the knife, gun and chainsaw-wielding hitchhiker from hell, for saying "Now it's YOUR turn to die"; Ron Jeremy, as the fat film producer who says "I have a part that you'd be perfect for"; and Beverly Lynne, as the cute bimbotic blonde who gets body parts sprayed all over her and says "This is the worst trip ever!"

Two and a half stars. Joe Bob says check it out.

"Hell's Highway" website: braindamagefilms.com.

(To reach Joe Bob, go to joebob-briggs.com or email him at JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, TX 75221.)

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