Highway safety films – the bloodiest, most nauseating of all spectacles thrown upon the virgin student minds of elementary school. Sometimes reenacted, more times than not the real thing, kids everywhere for years were scared straight into sitting still on the bus, and staying under the speed limit in the car – as accidents and the results of highway foolishness were splattered across the projection screen for every stunning, broken piece of skull they were worth. Hell’s Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films by Bret Wood (Psychopathia Sexualis) is a documentary detailing this very special chapter in our horror annals.
The projector ticks and the images flicker onto the classroom blackboard screen. The film begins – a bus is traveling down the road on its way to school. Some pranksters with a mouse have let it loose. It scurries up to the squeamish driver, who panics and jerks the wheel, sending the bus off the road and down an embankment. Metal spins, kids are churned, necks and bones are snapped like twigs “crack” “crack” “crack”, and hot, arterially bright red blood spurts all over the camera lens. In the classroom, children squirm, oddly uncomfortable in their seats. Another feature soon follows with real footage, as a man is pulled from his wrecked vehicle screaming in horrifying anguish, his back broken and his face caved in…
These were the likes of the films produced by Ohio’s Highway Safety Foundation, with the intentions of lessening the amount of violent deaths that were occurring on our roads post 1950, as fast cars and hip young dudes took to the streets with no concern for stop signs and speed limits. It was termed “teenicide” for a time. Highway Safety Films like “Signal 30” and “Mechanized Death” showed real road deaths with no holds barred. Over the years they brought down the numbers through sheer shock and brain battering persuasion.
For the (lets hope) slim few who draw a personal satisfaction from watching carcasses falling from wreckage like broken rag dolls (like myself) – the type of person who slows down on the highway hoping to get a glimpse at some nauseatingly obscene injury before its carted into the ambulance – you will greatly enjoy the supplemental disc that comes with this DVD, which contains several of these Highway Safety Films documented in their gory and gruesome entirety. It’s a true spectacle to see – there aren’t any other films quite like Hell’s Highway – and the bodies and death you will see are nothing short of the real thing.
Final analysis: Bret Wood’s documentary on Highway Safety Films can be a little dry to swallow at times, but is worth the bombardment of real death and injury you’ll discover along the way. A bit dated and grey at times, the carnage and adrenalizing atrocities still come shining through sharp enough to pierce your gut, and drench your thirsty, gore sponging mind. Director Bret Wood takes very original approaches to his films, as with Psychopathia Sexualis – Hell’s Highway is a professional and almost scientific gaze into an urban legend most of us previously attributed to schooldays myth. Beware the black and white, stretched out dialogue and classroom like tone that takes you out of the “horror” experience at times, and you’ll find this DVD to be full of what all hemophiles privately adore – real dead bodies, real screams of the broken only minutes from death, the dazed look of real victims who are gasping their final breaths of air… Embrace your sick desires, take a history lesson, and indulge in the dated collection of vehicular death filmstrips Hell’s Highway has to offer.