Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Census Bloodbath: It's THE Five

Year: 1985
Director: Richard Casey
Cast: Phil Therrien, Max Manthey, Irene Cagen
Run Time: 1 hour 27 minutes

Plot: I barely know what Horror House on Highway Five is about, but I'll do my best. Three college students are studying the bizarre experiments of ex-Nazi scientist Frederick Bartholomew, and find themselves in the deadly orbit of the untrustworthy Dr. Mabuse (Phil Therrien), his idiot brother Gary (Max Manthey), and a killer in a Richard Nixon mask, in and around a house that is, if you ask me, rather off Highway 5.

Analysis: Horror House on Highway Five is the reason I don't like to review films by describing the incident of the plot. It's not proper criticism to say "How can you not like a film where a killer in a Nixon mask runs around while college students fight him with rockets and there's a character randomly named after the iconic German expressionist cinema character Dr. Mabuse?" Here's how.

Highway Five is ineptly made to an unbearable degree, presenting dully lit images awash in a reprehensible soundtrack of brain-searing surf rock that doesn't do the least bit to make the film atmospheric or scary. Nearly all of the kills are offscreen or dull, and most of the characters keep refusing to die anyway. 

There are some flashes of good-bad brilliance, especially in the scenes with Gary and his captive Sally (Irene Cagen) refuse to display any level of human brain function; the sequence of him just dropping a full-ass pill into a glass of water, followed by her drinking it and exclaiming that "this beverage is delicious" deeply resonates in my bones. But then there's just a lot of shit that is both nasty and poorly executed, like a scene where a woman is tortured by having a hot iron placed against her breast, a scene that is delivered with absolutely zero foley.

Alas, it's generally a miserable slog that doesn't earn a lot of the praise it might otherwise garner from its tremendous weirdness. 

Killer: Richard M. Nixon AKA Dr. Bartholomew (credited as Ronald W. Reagan)
Final Girl: Louise (Susan Leslie)
Best Kill: If you use a rake in a kill, it's gonna be hard to top it. But Mike falling face first onto a rake is pretty fun, even on the heightened scale of rake kills.
Sign of the Times: The Nixon of it all.
Scariest Moment: The opening pair of kills is kinda OK, if you squint. The part where she is thrown through a glass table is at least squirm-inducing, if not exactly "scary."
Weirdest Moment: Dr. Mabuse suddenly starts exclaiming that there are bugs eating his brain.
Champion Dialogue: “I should be safe with all those little bombs set up around here."
Body Count: 7
    1. Boyfriend is strangled.
    2. Girlfriend is killed out of the frame.
    3. Noo Yawk Guy dies in a car crash.
    4. Noo Yawk Girlfriend dies offscreen.
    5. Mike falls face first onto a rake.
    6. Dr. Mabuse is beaten with a tire iron.
    7. Sally is bludgeoned to death.
TL;DR: Horror House on Highway Five is full of some delirious weirdness, but it's too boring to care all that much about it.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 528

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