Friday Night Fear Flicks: Route 666

In 2001, director/producer/screenwriter William Wesley (director of the cult classic "Scarecrows") teamed up with two other screenwriters, Scott Fivelson (his debut as a screenwriter) and Thomas Weber (his only movie as a screenwriter), to release "Route 666". It currently has an IMDb rating of 4.2, which is not a good sign.

The plot of the film follows Jack la Rocha (Lou Diamond Phillips of "Young Guns") and Steph (Lori Petty of "Point Break"), FBI agents working with other FBI agents to escort informer Rabbit, a.k.a. Fred Smith (Steven Williams of "The Blues Brothers") to give his testimony in court the following day. To save time, the group of agents go down a condemned off-shoot of Route 66, where a chain gang disappeared an unknown time ago. However, they should have paid attention to the stories, when the chain gang shows up to work on the road...

The plot is serviceable enough. It moves along at an all right pace. However, there is one large flaw. The horror part (the undead chain gang) doesn't show up until the 40 minute mark, and after 5 minutes and one kill, disappear until the last 25 or so minutes. The film is only 80 minutes long, but there is quite a bit of padding due to a ridiculous number of sub-plots, and that time could have been better spent on the actual horror. Overall, it's not horrible, but it could be so much better.

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Uh, Lou? Could you look interested? This is for the poster. No? Ah, fuck it.

The acting in the movie is, for the most part, phoned in. I've heard good things about LDP's acting, but here, he plays thing fairly flat. As for Lori Petty, her acting is also not all that great. They both show surprisingly little reaction to the undead chain gang. I mean, they freak out for about a minute when the gang shows up, but they seem to calm down quickly. However, LDP does get some decent acting moments near the end of the movie. The truly enjoyable actor, however is Steven Williams. His character is basically spitting one-liners the entire time. While a lot of characters who do this are grating, he honestly has quite a bit of charisma, and pulls it off surprisingly well. As for the other agents, one-note doesn't even begin to describe their characters.

On the less-good side, Sheriff Conaway (L.Q. Jones of "Casino") plays his corrupt hick role quite well. He is the one responsible for the disappearance of the chain gang, and he'll be damned if he lets these "federal agents" threaten everything by opening up the haunted road, stopping at nothing to silence them. He plays the role up, being quite enjoyable to watch in all his slimy corruptness. His son, a deputy named Gill (Adam Vernier, who played Gus on "24"), is the perfect deputy, doing as Daddy says without question. He knows the problems with the road, if not necessarily what causes them. He just doesn't care. However, his character is fairly boring. Overall, the sheriff is the second-most fun character to watch in the movie.

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So that's what Murtaugh and Riggs do on vacation.

The direction in this film is abysmal. Every time there is an action scene, the cameraman gets the jitters horribly. The camera shook so badly, I had a headache halfway through the movie, and I sat through both Transformers movies without a problem. On top of that, he decides to show what happened to the chain gang through flashbacks. It's a good idea on paper, but in practice, the constant flashbacks break the flow, and take us out of the action. In the end, the directing is one of the big flaws of the movie.

The score of the movie is serviceable. It's not too memorable, but the sting that plays every time the chain gang shows up sets the mood quite well. Overall, it's not bad, but not stand-out, either.

Overall, the movie is frustrating to watch. It has an interesting plot, and at the time, was pretty unique. However, the undeveloped characters, the shaky camera, and the sub-plots that go nowhere drag the movie down to mediocrity. However, the biggest flaw, and the reason I can't recommend it, is the lack of horror. The chain gang is only in the movie for around 30 minutes of the 80 minute runtime, and as the only horror element, that is inexcusable. If you want to be a supernatural action movie, advertise yourself as such. Also, except for the villains, the chain-gang only kills two people. Add in the villains, and the total kill count is four, which is just not enough to hold your interest. If you are going to have cardboard characters, the least you could do is kill them painfully. It's not the worst movie I've seen, mostly thanks to the entertaining criminal and sheriff, but if you really want a movie about a dangerous road, watch "Wrong Turn".

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My face when the movie was over.

 

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