Freeweay
FREEWAY. 1996
FREEWAY II: CONFESSIONS OF A TRICKBABY. 1999
Director: Matthew Bright

GUNCRAZY. 1992
Director: Tamra Davis

SHRUNKEN HEADS. 1994
Director: Richard Elfman

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Freeweay As it unexpected turned out, Freeway (1996) fit right into my weekly fix of films about Psychos, though I actually got this one to see Reese Witherspoon, not knowing it was also a psycho movie. It's more thriller than horror, & psychologically captivating.

SPOILER ALERT. Keifer Sutherland plays a kind, trustworthy, regular joe who turns out to be a sociopathic predator of teenage girls.

Since Reese is in no mood to be a victim she disfigures him horribly & goes ha-ha-ha about it. So now everyone is convinced she's the psycho, bad news for her.END SPOILER ALERT.

One might've expected it to be less exciting when the story shifts from the action-packed horrors of freeway hitchhiking, & moves to the sedate courtroom setting. But Reese never lets go of her command of the story, & the return of Keifer's character in his "new" life no longer capable of killing girls is a sick, sicker, sickest laugh riot.

She's relentlessly a bad girl in this, & though I do like her in her lightweight comedies mostly produced by herself, this is the sort of thing she should have kept doing. It shows she really can act, & is as convincing as a white trash spitfire as she would later prove convincing in her by-now-standard role of privileged-class romantic-comedy leads. Freeway is a great work of cinema treating its B-movie exploitation themes as worthy of A cinema.


GuncrazyI rather admired Freeway & it made me curious about director/writer Matthew Bright. So I snatched up ye olde film guide.

Turns out I've seen several of his films he either wrote or directed or both, & despite that I failed to remember his name, it would seem that he's one of my favorite screenwriter/directors, as several things on his filmography were real stand-outs for me.

He must be a little bit pervo because there's an edgy beauty to his stuff, & he clearly does like psycho themes, as he also directed Ted Bundy (2002). But an item on his filmography that made me go, "Oh my!" was Guncrazy (1992), written by Matthew Bright & directed with finesse by Tamra Davis.

This was a very fun take on a familiar theme seen two years later in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994), a Crime Spree Road Film about two loons who find each other, "in the tradition of" Bonny & Clyde (1967) or The Honeymoon Killers (1969).

GuncrazyIt's an absolutely fantastic performance by Drew Barrymore, from the period when she was still popularly edgy in her tabloid life as well as in her film role choices, rather than starring in her own safe-products she now produces as a high-powered Hollywood businesswoman who doesn't take any chances on anything that might be mistaken for art.

Her character of Anita avenges herself on her mother's rapist boyfriend Roony (Joe Dalessandro), then sets out with her beloved gun to find her prison penpal boyfriend Howard (James LeGros) who has just been parolled.

He's a nice fellow, planning to walk the straight & narrow for a change, but it doesn't take much convincing to make him badder than ever before, cuz Anita's so much fun to please. And lucky limpo, Anita's very forgiving of his impotence.

Anita takes him along on a very sick & convincingly romantic journey of psychotic mayhem, climaxing in an orgasmic explosion of violence.

It comes close to being a remake of the near-identically titled Gun Crazy (1950), sharing with its namesake an arful sense of cruelty & injustice. Guncrazy was for years my favorite Drew Barrymore film, as she's a great beauty, an effective actress, & this was just my kind of story, romance without sentiment, an authentic neo-noir.

The fantasy of avenging oneself against a rapist instead of staying depressed, then going on a rampage against the awful world, combines perfectly with this exploitation subject matter, resulting in a film even greater than its spiffy parts.



Shrunken HeadsBright also wrote the script for Richard Elfman's Shrunken Heads (1994), the first theatrical release by direct-to-video cheapo production company Full Moon. The director's debut film was a cult favorite Forbidden Zone (1980), so he was just the right guy to bring Bright's nutty vision to life (watch for Elfman as the preacher on the bus).

Although only a campy piece of junk, I did enjoy this tale of three New York boys (Aeryk Egan as Tommy, Bo Sharon as Bill, & Darris Love as Freddie), who wake up as shrunken heads after they've been murdered in gang violence.

The Haitian priest & neighborhood comic book vendor Aristide Pierre Lafite Sumatra (Julius Harris), formerly a colonel of the Ton Ton Macoute, provided the lads with this new lease on life, infusing them with the power of vengeance. The absurdity of three crime-fighting superhero shrunken heads is certainly no cliche, & deserves kudos for originality.

It's played for fun & as piffle goes, it's a delightful piffle -- a totally twisted comic book tale that would've looked just right illustrated for the old E.C. comics. It's definitely more comedy than horror, & even that Matthew Bright fondness for perverse tough gals just about shows through, in the character of Big Moe (Meg Foster) as crime boss & dyke.

But the film Bright wrote that knocked my socks off was Dark Angel: The Ascent (1990) directed by Linda Hassani. This remains one of my favorite films, about a sweet young demoness who escapes from hell to perform God's justice in the world.

Even more than Guncrazy it's a convincing goth romance. The demoness only punishes bad people & can be awfully sweet if you're a good person. It was meant to be first in a series but it made no money so there never was a sequel, alas.


Freeway IIIt strikes me as unfortunate that the interestingly titled Confessions of a Trickbaby (1999) ended up saddled with the prefacing Freeway 2 because Matthew Bright's earlier film had been something of a sleeper success. The two films have no relationship to one another thematically, character-wise, nothing. This is not a sequel by any stretch of the imagination. It is it's own wonderful unique entity, a magic realist variant of Thelma & Louise Become Psycho Fuckbuddies.

It's that rare creature, a poetic exploitation film, full of disgusting violence yet always with compassion for its twisted characters. Natasha Lyonne is bulemic "White Girl" whose prison sentence was laid on heavy by an unconscionable judge, shocking even the prosecutor. She'll be sent to a juvenile fascility until she reaches the age of majority, then she will serve twenty years in an adult fascility for stealing & selling her mother's drugs.

Maria Celedonio is White Girl's cellmate, Cyclona, the Mexican teen lesbian sexual psychopath who killed her entire family & is now serving life. She hates taking the medication that keeps her barely on the right side of psychosis, & she constantly tries to seduce White Girl who isn't gay & won't have any of it.

Listening to Cyclona masturbate noisily in the lower bunk, White Girl ponders twenty years of this. But slowly she comes to be increasingly fond of Cyclona, until an honest friendship develops.

Freeway IIOne day Cyclona reveals her intentions of escaping. White Girl calls her attorney before deciding to join her pal on the jailbreak. He tells her to sit tight, as he believes he can get her conviction overturned. He's a seedy attorney who screws all his prettier clients, but is even so devoted to their legal needs. White Girl has lost faith in him, however, & so escapes with Cyclona.

An infected injury means White Girl needs to lay low somewhere to recover, so Cyclona looks for shelter, finding it by killing the first pair of homeowners she encounters. White Girl tries to keep Cyclona on her meds but really can't control her psychotic inclinations, though toward White Girl she is possessive & protective & apologetic about being so crazy. When Cyclona kills a border cop with wetbacks for witnesses, White Girl beats the hell out her psycho buddy, deeply frustrated.

She'd like to abandon the teenage madwoman but feels some slight responsibility for her, plus Cyclona claims to know someone in Mexico, Sister Gomez, who'll hide & protect them. Along the way, White Girl's abhorence of Cyclona's excessively horny lesbianism is overcome, & she throws herself into the final bonding ceremony.

In Mexico White Girl poses as a prostitute in order to knock her johns unconscious & rob them. She & Cyclona are hiding out inside Sister Gomez's church foundation. While Sister Gomez claims to be doing an exorcism on Cyclona that will cure her of her need to murder people, White Girl is not permitted to see her, but has to keep robbing men in order to help support Sister Gomez's children's charity.

The film goes all Magic Realist when Sister Gomez, as played by Vincent Gallo, turns out to be an demon from hell, her/his crippled hunchbacked assistant having actual goat haunches. Sister Gomez's children's charity is actually a front for trafficking in children & in sadistic kiddy porn, & Cyclona's weird memories of having been kidnapped & tortured by aliens from outer space disguised her memories of being a porn star by age six.

When White Girl realizes their greedy but helpful protector isn't what she seems, she goes an a murderous rampage of her own attempting to save Cyclona.

Meanwhile back in the states, her seedy attorney has succeeded in getting White Girl's sentence overturned. It seems far too late for her to have a happy-ever-after, but in a film that has gone down this outrageous path of wild black comedy, just about any outcome is possible.

For all its outrageous exploitation content & extreme sleeze & campiness, Confessions of a Trickbaby never ceases to care about its central characters. It is one of the best "dangerous girls" films ever made, with a level of acting so extraordinarily high that it transcends sleeze & camp to become a tremendously accentric artfilm despite the goriness, & in spite of the dark humor retaining a strong dose of cynicism on the relativity of evil.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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