DIRECTOR: HALDANE BURKE. RUNNING TIME: 92 mins. DVD: PINK OBOE FILMS. PRICE £15.99 CERT 18
From the outset, this low-budget British horror flick makes clear its no-holds barred approach. The opening scene will surely become a classic of the genre – a car full of youths speeds along the M25 orbital motorway, pulling alongside an old Rover carrying an elderly couple, one of the youths lowers his window and moons at the oldsters. In response the elderly woman passenger of the Rover winds down her window, leans across, and bites a huge chunk of the guy’s arse. The mooning youth’s agonised flailings cause the driver of his car to lose control, resulting in a fiery fatal crash. This reviewer has no doubt that this sequence will one day be considered on a par with the shower sequence in Hitchcock’s Psycho as a masterpiece of shock-horror. This picture marks documentary director Haldane Burke’s first venture into feature films. His background shows in the flashes of social comment that pepper the film – a motorway service station staffed entirely by the undead, and the revelation that zombified car-crash victims are being used as cheap labour on road-building schemes due to an unrealistically low bid being made to secure the contract, for instance.
The film is generally well served by a cast which includes the obligatory minor American star in the lead role -Rusty Waters of cult US cable TV sitcom Throttlin’ the Turkey. Indeed, Waters gives a creditable performance as the American private eye who comes to Britain in search of his missing hitch-hiking younger brother, who teams up with a young woman (Muffy Diver) who herself is searching for her runaway teenage sister. Despite these strong performances, the film does suffer slightly from the curse of novelty casting which blights so many current British films. In this case almost forgotten TV “comedy” duo Little and Large are cast as the evil road builders, Morrison and Cunningham. Nonetheless, sometimes this type of casting does pay dividends – who wouldn’t pay good money to see the multi-untalented Brian Conley (as a police superintendent) being eaten alive by a pack of ravening zombies? The climax – set in a car scrap yard – is well staged, with shotgun-toting Waters and a group of Brixton Rastafarians attempt to stop Cunningham and Morrison’s voodoo priest from sacrificing Diver and her sister on an alter made from a 1978 Opel Manta – more satirical imagery from Burke. Overall, Highway of the Driving Dead indicates a refreshing revival of the British horror film.