Blood on the Highway is a lot like that crazy uncle only seen at the holidays: vulgar, unpredictable and strange, yet also very interesting and funny. The low budget horror offering from Texas strives to follow in the trail blazed by such films as Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive, only with vampires and more sex jokes. It largely succeeds, though not without a few bumps in the road.
Carrie and Sam are an oddly matched couple. She (played ably by Robin Gierhart) is attractive and outgoing, and he (played by Nate Rubin) is nebbish and wisecracking, and several inches shorter than his girlfriend. They are heading to a rock festival along with Nate's sort of friend Bone (Deva George), when they get lost in the wilds of Texas and stop in the small town of Fate (an actual Texas town) to get some gas.
Unfortunately for them, the town has been overrun by vampires. Nate is soon bitten, and the trio rushes to escape, luckily encountering quirky survivalist Byron (Tony Medlin). Byron shelters them in his home (which he has declared a sovereign country) along with his wife Lynette (Laura Stone) and a socially awkward yet lecherous young man named Roy (Chris Gardner, also a co-writer). Scenes of the oversexed Lynette making advances at all and sundry are mixed with vampire battles and other randomness, such as confining the soon to be a vampire Nate in a dry swimming pool full of carousel horses. Weirdness and crass humor pervades, and one hesitates to use the term non-sequitur to describe the many cul-de-sacs and distractions presented, because it would imply that something beyond the most basic foundations of a linear plot exist at all.
This is not a criticism of Blood on the Highway. Linear narrative is not the point, and the story serves at most as a crude framework on which the producers can layer incredibly vulgar jokes about the human reproductive system and vast quantities of spurting blood. It helps that the jokes are inventive and funny (at least, more often than not) as well as filthy, and that the arterial spray and various vampire kills are executed with verve and abandon. The film does have its flaws, and not a few of them. While the comic timing is generally pretty good, a lot of the performances are stilted and uncomfortable. (Thankfully, this problem is confined mostly to the supporting cast.) The blood effects are also of good quality, but the occasional digital enhancement of them stands out a bit too much as CG. A lot of the jokes don't work, but they come in such high volume that this doesn't matter too much. They fly so quickly that one bad joke is overrun by two good ones almost before one can think.
The film is chaotic and frenetic, hardly resting for a moment once the action kicks in, and bouncing around like a pinball thereafter. Its success rests largely on two points. First is the gonzo writing which, quite literally, never pulls any punches. One character's declaration that "we are f***ed like an autistic eight year old in a NAMBLA meeting" is characteristic of the kind of one liners that get tossed off every few minutes. Second, the talent of the three main players and their boundless energy seal the deal. The characters are merely caricatures of standard horror film types: the plucky girl, the tough guy, the nerd. But Gierhart, Ruben and George throw themselves into the roles with such gusto that they become something more than parodies. There are also a couple of nice featured performers, Tom Towles as sort of a country lawyer type vampire, and Nicholas Brendon as a slick, corporate executive vampire. Both have a lot of fun with their roles, and add some measure of cachet to the film.
Blood on the Highway is no cinematic masterpiece. It is almost indescribably vulgar, bloody and strange, definitely not for all tastes. But it is undeniably a fun ride, particularly for those with a warm place in their hearts for this kind of mayhem. Recommended, but mostly for the fans.
The image is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks pretty good despite some mild aliasing. The colors are bright and strong and pop off of the screen, and the contrast is good. For a very low budget film, this looks very nice.
The audio is available in both a Dolby digital 2 channel and 5.1 channel. The separation is good during the numerous action scenes, and the dialogue is clearly audible. English subtitles are available, but no alternate language track is included.
There are a few extras included. They are:
This is a decent trailer, just over a minute long, and captures the spirit of the film well.
12 Days in Fate: Behind the scenes documentary
At approximately thirty minutes, this featurette delves fairly deeply into what it took to produce the film. It includes interviews with the writers and directors and a few of the actors, and lots of behind the scenes footage. Interesting.
Consumart Employee Orientation Video
This is a satirical orientation video for the vampire controlled retail chain featured in the film. Like the film, it is funny and stupid, and stars Chris Gardner, who played Roy in the feature.
Visual FX Reel
This is a series of before and after shots highlighting the digital effects used in the movie. Interesting.
Like the film, this commentary is entertaining, but vulgar and chaotic. A very large number of people participate, including co-director Barak Epstein, co-director / co-writer Blair Rowan, actor / co-writer Chris Gardner, actors Laura Stone and Deva George, cinematographer Clay Liford, and others that this reviewer may have been missed. Often, two or three conversations are taking place at once, making it difficult to pull out a particular strand. It is humorous, however, and includes a lot of interesting anecdotes, such as the illegal migrant worker who was living in one of the locations, and had to be asked to leave off and on during shooting by the one person (Robin Gierhart) with a shaky grasp of Spanish. At times the commentary is hard to follow, but fun.
Trailers are included for Haunted Echoes, Knife Edge and Four Boxes.
Blood on the Highway is a fun movie, if a crass and bloody one. It has a boundless energy and anarchic spirit that are strangely endearing. It is fast paced, funny and gory, though not for the faint of heart. Fans of arterial spray and horror comedy will find a lot to love.