Douglas (Jim Hazelton) is an aggressive jerk who sits behind his office desk barking down the telephone at his assistant, telling them to make an excuse to his mistress so he can take his wife away for the weekend.

The wife, meanwhile, is Bea (Jaclyn Marfuggi) - a drunken, pill-popping pain in the arse with a grudge against her mother for never having had a "sweet sixteen" birthday party.

Together, they make an awful couple. As they set off on their weekend trip. they seem to know this too, and bicker from the moment Douglas turns the key in his car's ignition.

When they hit a deer on a lonely road, their car is put out of action and they are forced to race to the nearest motel. Bea, after all, is desperate for a shit.

They're met by a nightmare behind the motel's reception desk, in the form of blow-up sheep-shagging Dickie (John Link). In drag. Despite his off-putting appearance and verbal insults hurled in Bea's direction, the loveless couple check in to a room for the night.

As Bea retires for a shit and shower, Douglas relaxes on the bed and turns the television on, looking for porn. Instead he finds the first of three tales which make up the bulk of this lo-fi horror anthology.

In it, a young man has sex with a beautiful brunette, only for her to bite his neck and suck his blood at the moment of climax. A year later, the man's twin brother - who witnessed the whole sordid affair - saunters into a new town armed with a wooden stake. He's close to finally catching up with the vampire queen.

This tale is extremely cheap and no amount of dry ice or fisheye lens camerawork can disguise that fact. It strives for erotic horror and in doing so is decent enough to throw blood and boobies our way - but the whole thing is confused, confusing and sexless.

Back in the motel, Bea checks into her own room after finding Douglas wanking in bed. She switches her own TV on, and is subjected to the next poverty row short. It concerns a trio of two young lads and their girl friend who embark on a hunting trip into their local woods in search of the beast that killed their pet dog.

This one takes an age to reach its punch line, and when it does it makes the unwise decision of revealing the creature on screen. The fact that it's utterly laughable totally undermines the inclusion of a decent amount of gore beforehand. Library music manages to be several degrees more exciting than anything occurring on screen here.

When Bea and Doug finally reconvene and demand another room from Dickie, they fall asleep in front of the TV while the third short unfolds - the tale of Dan, a self-professed "zombie hunter". He's a middle-aged guy being shadowed around town by a young journalist, keen to learn all about Dan's unusual pastime. Dan's aim, he informs the rookie journo, is to find the "hive" - where all the zombies come from.

Of course, the journalist is cynical. And, naturally, Dan is proven to be right.

Terrible dialogue and lacklustre performances hamper efforts at both humour and horror in this otherwise visually stylish offering.

ROAD HELL has been made extremely cheaply by a trio of filmmakers - Pete Jacelone (the second and third segments - "Deep Into The Rabbit Hole" and "Zombies, Zombies Everywhere"), Draven Gonzalez (the wraparound story) and Alex Pucci (vampire tale "The One").

Production values are amateurish but any gore that occurs is agreeably cheesy. Performances are generally abysmal during the anthology shorts, while Gonzalez wisely has his players exaggerate wildly during the framing scenes - effectively making them impossible to review in terms of being good or bad.

Tonally, the film has a schizophrenic feel. This isn't uncommon of horror portmanteaus, but is particularly jarring here as the opening link is broadly comedic while the shorts themselves share a darker tone. Ironically, they are more amusing - unintentionally - than Douglas and Bea's 'jokes'.

At 76 minutes in length, the film is short but feels longer than it is. It pains me to slate a film clearly made with ambition and energy, but ROAD HELL is only going to appeal to literally the most forgiving horror fans.

Independent Entertainment's region free DVD serves up ROAD HELL uncut in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The picture is 16x9 enhanced and looks generally very good. Colours are bright, detail is sharp and the digital photography handles both motion and darker scenes well.

English 2.0 audio is clear and clean throughout, Some scenes, such as the majority of the vampire yarn, do have a muffled effect - but this appears to be systematic of the manner in which the audio was recorded, rather than a flaw in the disc's mastering.

Extras begin with the film's original trailer, a 2-minute affair which is honest enough to portray the film accurately.

We also get an audio commentary track from the filmmakers. It's a light affair, agreeable enough if you can get past the fact that the film isn't worth learning much more about.

There's also the opportunity to watch each of the shorts in isolation here, as well as an alternate beginning which doesn't offer much at only a minute in length. Having said that, I prefer the titles that were used in this alternate opening.

10 minutes of trailers for Shock-O-Rama films follow, along with 10 minutes of trailers for ScreamKings titles: FRAT HOUSE MASSACRE, SCULPTURE etc.

ROAD HELL doesn't bring anything great to the saturated horror anthology market. In fact, in a sub-genre notorious for its inconsistency, the one thing that can be said in its favour is that it is consistently poor throughout.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Independent Entertainment
Region 1
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review