Freeway (1996)

Matthew Bright started his career by writing Forbidden Zone as well as playing Squeezit and René Henderson in that transmission from another dimension. With Freeway, he’s simultaneously making a Hollywood movie and the kind of exploitation film that was often outside the mainstream.

Vanessa Lutz (Reese Witherspoon, who was the hottest actress of the time after this, so this is kind of strange seeing an A-lister, much less two, get down into the scuzzy dirt as if they were making an AIP movie or worse) has a horrible life. Her mother — Amanda Plummer is, as always, dependably deranged — has just gone away for hooking and her stepfather — Michael T. Weiss from The Pretender — has been assaulting her for years. She steals her social worker’s car and heads off into the woods — or the road from Los Angeles to Stockton — to live with her grandmother, only stopping long enough to get a gun from her man Chopper and to narrowly miss him get killed in a drive-by. And oh yeah, her real dad was Richard Speck.

Things seemingly get better when she’s picked up by Bob Wolverton (Keifer Sutherland), a counselor for boys who she feels able to share all the secrets of her horrible past. Then he tells her a secret too: he’s the I-5 Killer and she’s going to be his next victim.

She turns the tables and repeatedly shoots him, but the media and society turn the tables on her, casting him as a hero and landing her in jail. That’s when she joins with Rhonda (Brittany Murphy) and Mesquite (Rhonda Alanna Ubach) to escape prison and head back to grandmother’s house, where this movie’s big bad wolf is waiting for her, facial paralysis and all.

Maybe I was in the right mood for this, but it hit everything just perfectly. It helps to have Dan Hedaya in the cast, because he’s the kind of actor that elevates everything. And casting Brooke Shields as Sutherland’s rich wife really pays off.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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