Lost Highway (1997)
By: Matt Moss on February 27, 2012  | 
Madman | Region B | 2.35:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD 5.1 | 134 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: David Lynch
Starring: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, John Roselius
Screenplay: David Lynch, Barry Gifford
Country: USA
External Links
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So, is David Lynch a horror director? Well, compared to the Royal Flush of Romero, Carpenter, Craven, Hooper and Cronenberg - Lynch is something of a rogue Joker in the deck. He has long staked out his own strange outpost on the desolate fringes of art-house credibility and mainstream acceptance. His movies unspool like fractured nightmare transmissions from the darkest depths of the Id. Hysterical and terrifying doses of Weirdo-Americana that defy simple genre classification. Most certainly a square peg in round hole marked: Horror.

Freshly unleashed on Blu-Ray, 1997's Lost Highway is what I consider the purest example of Lynch's demented vision of cinema as weaponized hallucinogen. Be warned: It starts sloooooowly... But the long, hypnotic dissolves of the opening scenes purposely allow time for the claustrophobic sense of looming dread to leak into our frontal lobes.

It begins with jazz saxophonist hepcat Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) quietly slipping into paranoid psychosis. Suspicious of his coolly distant wife - the vamped-out, Bettie Paige-alike Renee (Patricia Arquette) - he retreats into the dark womb of his LA home. Both emerge periodically from the shadows, as if in walking-comas, to attempt something approaching normal human interaction. Then, videotapes begin arriving at their doorstep. Someone is recording them sleeping at night. From inside the house... This is not good news for ol' Fred's state of mind.

At this point, Lynch has lured us in deep and steps hard on the gas. Fred's sanity finally splits apart with violent consequences and, mprisoned for a terrible crime, he deals with his guilt in an unconventional manner. Instead of scheduling a shrink or suicide, Fred takes Option C: shape-shifting into sullen, young grease-monkey Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) and becoming son to motorcycle jacket-wearing Gary Busey. Things get further complicated when, in his new guise and released from jail, he begins an intense affair with the girlfriend of deranged porn-enthusiast gangster Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia). Alice, wouldn't-ya-know-it, is the blonde dead-ringer for Renee. Also played by Patricia Arquette, she is a more hot-blooded, sexually-available va-va-voom version of his wife. Yet, unluckily for Pete (or is that Fred?), she is even less willing to be possessed by him. By now, we're wondering how much on screen is actually taking place or is an unfolding delusion within Fred's jealousy-scarred subconscious. Helping this theory along is the bizarro devil-like character played by real-life killer Robert Blake who makes several starting appearances, often bullying Fred/Pete into further irrational violence. While wearing Kabuki-corpse ghoul make-up. It's a safe bet that fans of safe, easy-to-follow linear storytelling will definitely be lost on this particular highway. And maybe a little car-sick.

Often considered as one of Lynch's lessor works, Lost Highway has been dismissed as a decline into self-parody; an annoyingly-abstract spookhouse ride through his usual fetishes. I disagree. For me, Lost Highway sits next to Blue Velvet and Wild At Heart as his stone-cold classics. It submerges the senses wholeheartedly into Lynch-Land with style-to-spare and a consistent menace-drenched mood.

The soundtrack perfectly compliments the dark, sexual longing and sudden shocks of violent strangeness. Angelo Badalamenti's haunting orchestral distortions writhe around Trent Reznor's searing Industrial riffs and drones, sometimes fighting for space against crazed free-form jazz freak-outs, laid-back retro-Lounge grooves, a rockabilly-twanging Lou Reed and the thundering German electro-metal of Rammstein. Not to mention David Bowie crooning "I'm Deranged" over the opening and closing credits.

This being the 90s, Marilyn Manson also makes an appearance on the soundtrack and (very briefly) in the film. His howling cover of "I Put a Spell on You" sky-rockets the tension in the film's most disturbing scene. A scared Alice is forced at gunpoint to undress in front of a leering Mr. Eddy, the same dead-eyed lunatic we saw earlier throttle and pistol-whip a motorist to near-death in broad daylight. As the song rises and throbs in intensity, Alice slowly strips - violence and sex merge uncomfortably. Both us and the on-screen characters are all-too aware of the titillating thrill coursing beneath the scene, and yet, we're all terrified of how it will end...

So, let's be honest. "Horror Director" or not, it's gotta be said: Lynch spikes the movie punch-bowl with more genuine and memorable creep-outs than a million Platinum Dunes yawn-some retreads. And who wouldn't wanna see his Masters Of Horror episode? Unfortunately, that never happened, but we still have Lost Highway to ruin our sleeping patterns forever.
The lush, shimmering cinematography was made for Blu-Ray and full 2.35:1 widescreen. Lost Highway has never looked better, and you'll be glad you upgraded form the murky prints of previous DVD releases.
The sometimes explosive soundtrack simply booms and rattles the windows on this disc, in DTS-HD 5.1. Your speakers haven't truly been tested until demanded to handle a full-tilt Trent Reznor score.
Extra Features
Original 1996 Interview With David Lynch & Interviews With Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette And Robert Loggia – Brief original electronic press-kit style interviews with Lynch and cast. Robert Loggia is the most animated and enthusiastic about the project. Bill and Patricia seem a little baffled and bemused by the script. Lynch is as guarded and as eccentrically elusive as ever. Wearing sunglasses with crazed rockabilly hair, he's eager to talk - but you get the feeling he'd rather have open heart surgery than reveal any of the meanings of the film. Interesting, but hardly essential.

Making Of Lost Highway - Instead of a retrospective documentary, we have seemingly unedited footage of Lynch directing several scenes. While not the highly informative behind-the-scenes expose a fan could hope for, seeing Lynch blocking action in a ridiculously large-brimmed fishing cap while blasting Nine Inch Nails at ear-bleed level probably says everything you need to know about his work methods.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Strangely unloved classic, ready to be rediscovered. David Lynch at his most coherently strange, abstract, dark and violent. With Gary Busey in a fringed motorcycle jacket.

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