2 and a half stars   

directed by: Richard Casey
starring: Phil Therrien, Max Manthey, Irene F., Michael Castagnolia, Susan Leslie, Randy Daitch, William Pope, Richard Meltzer, Kathleen Battersby, Ronald Reagan, Steve DeVorkin, Robert Gaulin, S. Eisensteint

(back of video blurb):

"A group of college students on holiday become prey for a killer and his two sadistic and demented sons. One son, an unlicensed doctor, is mentally unhinged by destructive brain parasites. The other son, a shy and lonely psychopath, falls in love with a dead girl. While the insane boys are blundering through their destructive rampage, the father stalks the night with random violence. Though he is shot, beaten, and run over by a car, the maniac cannot be defeated.

One by one the students enter the horror house, where they must face the malignant forces left behind by unnatural scientific experimentations. They are hunted down, tortured and eliminated until only one girl is left to fight for her life against the trio of murderers.

Directed by the notorious rock video maker, Richard Casey, Horror House on Highway 5 is filled with strange humor and wild action."

choice dialogue:

"Relax! Just put your fuckin' mind at rest. ... Are you nuts? ... Arrrghh!”

- a not too bright victim tries to reason with President Nixon.

slash with panache?
[review by Justin Kerswell]

Mad Nazi scientists, brain parasites, boob ironing and a killer in a Richard Nixon mask. Oh, my!

Hi, honey - I'm home!

After some disconcertingly wobbly titles we are introduced to two strange characters: a man, with mad staring eyes, Dr Mabuser (Phil Therrien), who's testing his younger sidekick, a goofy looking teen named Gary (Max Manthey), on his knowledge of Tarot cards (we know things aren't quite right when he insists that the death card stands for love). So far so strange. Then, in a seemingly unconnected scene we get the old classic POV shot of the outside of a house at night-time, complete with the de-riguer heavy breathing of an unseen watcher. Inside a blank looking woman (Kathleen Battersby, who glamorously refered to as 'housewife' in the credits) is rearranging house plants, she is surprised by her boyfriend who's wearing a Richard Nixon mask; his attempt at scaring her leaves her nonplussed and she tells him she's off to have a shower (her voice seems to have been dubbed for some reason, although it hardly improves her 'performance'). The boyfriend goes to get something from his car where he's attacked and killed by an unseen assailant hiding in the back seat. After her shower the woman stands buck naked in the bathroom for the requisite t&a shot before hearing a strange noise; going off to investigate she's attacked by the killer in the mask, who shakes her around like a rag doll before leaving her dazed on the carpet. She comes to and makes a break for it, but for some strange reason throws herself onto a glass coffee table (in perhaps the worst choreographed stunt scene ever, she even pauses a moment before throwing herself onto it!), which is hardly the most inconspicuous exit! With her wrist deeply gauged she's captured and offed by the big nosed killer whilst making a screaming sound that sounded bizarrely like she was gargling mouthwash.

Special school

Now, if things were starting to get a little run-of-the-mill (well, at least comparatively) we are then transported to a college classroom full of geeks and freaks. A gerbil-faced professor (Randy Daitch) - in a performance that gives new meaning to the word stilted - tells his motley assortment of boss-eyed students that he wants three of them to go to the town of Littletown and investigate a deceased Nazi doctor, named Bartholomew, who was supposedly responsible for the V2 rocket, and in honour (?) of him they've got to make replicas of the rockets whilst there. He chooses Louise (Susan Leslie), who looks like she's on exchange from special school; stoner Mike (Michael Castagnolia) (the only college kid I've seen with a comb-over), and the pretty, but nerdy looking Sally (Irene F.).

To cut a long, if pretty incoherent, story shorter: Louise goes to interview Dr Mabuser, who purportedly knew Bartholomew, is drugged and transported to the eponymous horror house and, in a very strange scene in a very strange movie, has her breast ironed in a bizarre Nazi black magic ritual! Meanwhile, Sally and Mike drives out to a quarry and start to make rockets and smoke pot. And doubly meanwhile, Richard Nixon stalks the night looking for potential victims ...

An unconventional way to iron clothes!

HORROR HOUSE ON HIGHWAY 5 is a unique film; not necessarily a good one, but it's certainly one of a kind (well, unless you count Doris Wishman's one foray into early 80's slasherdom, the complete and utter mind fuck that is A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER (1979/1983)). It's the slasher movie by way of the bong - and even if you aren't on drugs whilst you're watching it you'll think you are (and you may need to take something just to get to the end!). Certainly, whoever wrote this thing was probably no stranger to exotic herbs, and, by the look of the cast there was plenty to go round!

My favourite scene has to be when the when a couple of saucer-eyed non-actors (a nasal guy in an electric yellow new wave jacket and his girlfriend with the permanent sneer and mile wide hair, who has a pretty way with words, "Hey Joe, tell your Dad to eat shit!", being one of her vocal bon-bons) encounter the Nixon faced nutter on the deserted highway. "Get out of the road you fuckin' zombie!", shouts the jock before slamming on the brakes and getting out of the car. "You better be careful, he looks like a big Mutha.", says the girl sounding like she really couldn't really care less. Joe gets his head pummeled by the psycho but gets back in the car and turns it round and drives at the loon, knocking him down causing the girl to bark, "What's wrong with you? You just run that guy over!", adding, rather unkindly, "You must have a very low IQ.".

The power of New Wave dancing compells you!

Strangeness abounds. Somewhere in the mad doctor's lair a secret something stalks, a weapon of some kind that the audience and the characters never see (kind of like a zero budget equivalent of the flying orbs in PHANTASM (1979) - maybe the V3?!), which just makes a whooshing sound like a whip, taking nicks out of the confused looking actors (they're confused?!). I thought there had to be some significance to the fact that Mike discovers a dead feline in the back of the student's van, "What the hell is this dead cat doing here?!"; especially as the same cat is glimpsed when Sally goes swimming at home, but even though someone deposited her mutilated pussy there she bats nary an eyelid (there was no significance I could find!). There's also the brain parasites, the maggots that are eating Dr Mabuser's brain (or are they?); the protection he opts for is a large papier-mache helmet with a swastika on it, which seems parr for the course. Then there's the music. Oh, my God - the music! ... I defy anyone to find a more eclectic, downright strange slasher movie soundtrack: everything form scratchy violins, to punk rock, to surf music, to acid rock to de-wop! It sounded like the makers had ram-raided a music library and used whatever they'd bagged.

Perhaps even more bizarrely is the fact that amongst the psychedelic weirdness there are a few moments of unnerving resonance. The final five minutes, when the final girl thinks she's got away, possess an odd but effective creepiness that's difficult to pin point. There's also some fun gore when one victim passes out and falls headfirst onto a rake, only to wander round for the remainder of the movie with said rake embedded in his forehead! And, of course, it's a stroke of genius to exploit a stoner's paranoia (there really *is* a dead man in the trash can and somebody really *is* out to get him). It scores points, too, obviously, for having the killer wearing a Richard Nixon mask (especially as the actor who is wearing is credited as Ronald Reagan!); he looks both goofy and creepy, especially when the latex is dripping with blood. Oh, and kudos also to one potential victim by trying to engineer her her escape through the power of new wave dancing!

I've tried my best to explain the unique strangeness of HORROR HOUSE ON HIGHWAY 5, but, really, it's a film that needs to be experienced first-hand. How much of the weirdness is calculated is difficult to say, but there's enough genuinely oddball moments to suggest not all of it. You just have to decide whether this is one trip you want to take - but just remember, there may be no coming back!


BODYCOUNT 8  bodycount!   female:3 / male:5

       1) Male strangled
       2) Female roughed up and then strangled 
       3) Male body glimpsed     
       4) Male killed in car crash
       5) Female hit in the face with a bomb
       6) Female killed (method unseen)
       7) Male gets a rake imbedded into his forehead
       8) Male hit over the head with a car jack