Sunday, April 24, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Day 23 - Your favorite made for TV horror film

First of all, I am aware that I’m a little bit late with today’s post. Sorry, it’s been a hell of a day. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me throw two names out and you tell me what you think of first. Stephen King and Clive Barker. Whatever you just thought, I bet it wasn’t “horror comedy.” That’s exactly what we have here though folks. Take stories by Barker and King, adapt them for TV, let Mick Garris direct, throw in Christopher Lloyd all gothed up, and what do you have? Just another Friday night at my…wait, no…I mean you have my favorite TV horror flick, Quicksilver Highway.

We open on a bride on her wedding night. No, it’s not that kind of story. Get your mind out of the gutter. She’s sitting in a broken down car in the middle of the desert, waiting for her groom, who went to find help, to return. A Rolls Royce pulls up towing an Airstream camper. That should have been her first clue that something screwy was going on. Then Christopher Lloyd, looking like the mutant love child of Dani Filth and Uncle Fester, gets out and invites her into his parlor. Clue number two. He proceeds to tell her a story based on The Chattering Teeth by Stephen King. I know the concept of Mick Garris directing a King adaptation is blowing your mind, but bear with me here folks. Bill is a traveling salesman traveling salesman driving through the desert in a dust storm. He almost hits a Brian, a hitch hiker. He decides to stop in at a roadside diner/gas station, where he buys a big set of metal wind up chattering teeth for his son. As he’s leaving, he sees the hitcher he almost flattened and offers him a ride. As the ride goes south, the hitcher pulls a knife and tries to commandeer the van. Bill swerves and crashes. Brian then decides it’s time to kill Bill. I thought about making a David Carradine joke there, but that would just be in poor taste, now wouldn’t it? Anyway, who comes to Bill’s rescue? That’s right, the chattering teeth!

Story two opens in a carnival. A pickpocket stumbles into Quicksilver’s tent to hide from the cops, and is told a story based on The Body Politic by Clive Barker. Dr. Charles is a plastic surgeon. He also looks a lot like our pick pocket. Could be because they’re played by the same actor, the always awesome Matt Frewer. His hands turn against him Evil Dead style. After almost killing Charles driving home and strangling his wife, the hands decide that one of them should be free to recruit more hands for the revolution, so righty chops lefty off. An epidemic of evil hands ensues, and only Charles can put a stop to the madness.

If you read reviews online of this movie, you’ll see a lot of people downing it for not being very scary. Just from a synopsis of the stories, I think it’s obvious that none of this is supposed to be taken seriously. A guy gets killed by wind up teeth. The hands have cartoon voices and talk to each other for crying out loud. In the hospital in the second story, we have an entire hospital wing having a titanic battle with their hands. It’s hilarious! Does it work as a straight up horror flick? Not really. As an outlandish horror comedy? Absolutely! It’s also impossible to take the amazingly AWFUL CGI crawling severed hands seriously, but that’s beside the point.

One thing that is of particular note in this flick is the acting. Christopher Lloyd plays creepy so incredibly well. I don’t know about the Doc Brown Hot Topic makeover look, but this character could easily carry an anthology TV series. I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie was actually conceived as a pilot. Both of the leads in the first story, Raphael Sbarge as Bill and Silas Weir Mitchell as Brian, are great. I think Silas might have been a little too good though. He’s so creepy that it’s hard to believe that anyone in their right mind would let him into their car. Matt Frewer is great, which is to be expected. The scenes of him fighting with his hands will have you crying with laughter, but his moment of “I’m watching my hands kill my wife and I can’t stop them” is actually pretty heart wrenching. You can tell that he’s really relishing the opportunity to ham it up. Interestingly, Stephen King foregoes his usual cameo. Clive Barker doesn’t, however, and is in a pretty amusing scene with John Landis.

Sometimes I think people get so caught up in horror being intense, meaningful, and terrifying that they forget that it’s supposed to be fun too. It’s ok to be silly sometimes. Sure, you don’t want too much comic relief if your movie is supposed to be a spine tingling thrill ride, but a movie can’t be bad just because it’s goofy. Quicksilver Highway is horror comedy, but it doesn’t have jokes. It has a premise so out there and bizarre that it’s funny because it’s played fairly straight. The good source material, great acting, and competent direction make this one a fun ride. After all, isn’t that what a movie is supposed to be? It’s a bit tough to find, but it’s worth it. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

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