During the great slasher craze of the 80’s, there were many bizarre takes on the genre, but perhaps none as bizarre, daffy, delightfully awful, and genuinely wonderful as 1985’s Horror House on Highway 5. Directed by notorious music video maker Richard Casey, it’s about...well, honestly it’s a bit hard to tell you exactly what it’s about, but I’ll do my best.

A group of three college students are sent to the town of Littletown to research a mad rocket scientist named Bartholomew and also construct a rocket in his honor because historical figures and rocket engineering are absolutely two things you learn in the same class, right? Right. One student goes to interview a man called Dr. Marbuse, who is supposedly a leading expert on Bartholomew. Mabuse also has a dim witted assistant named Igor. Kidding, it’s Gary. The other two students go to a field where Bartholomew launches his famous rocket and proceed to have their van break down, find a dead cat in the backseat, and then proceed to get chased around by a crazed killer in a Richard Nixon mask whom I think is supposed to be Bartholomew himself, although I’m not entirely sure since it’s never fully explained. In fact, I’m only about 90% sure that the plot description you just read is what actually happens or is even what is supposed to happen, but it doesn’t even matter, because this movie is a lovable, brilliant work of drug induced nonsense. I should state that on the blu-ray commentary, Casey refutes the rumor that this movie was made entirely under the influence of mind altering substances, but I should also state that I just don’t know that I believe him.

If you are a fan of super fun bad movies made with love, then you are 100% my people and are probably already sold, but if the wacky plot that could only happen in an 80’s horror movie isn’t enough to entice you then I can give you five very solid reasons why this film is necessary viewing and, surprisingly, one of them is not “because I say so”...although just for the record, I do say so. 

Some of the greatest bad dialogue ever recorded in movie history is found right here. 

Allow me to share some of the absolutely beautiful nuggets of word wonder this movie has to offer:

  • A girl attempting to simultaneously run away from and reason with the killer: “Relax! Just put your fuckin’ mind at ease, huh?! Are you nuts?? Stop it!!”
  • A guy talking to the killer standing in the road: "Get out of the road you zombie!"
  • A girl to that guy after he hits the killer with their car: "What's wrong with you? You just run that guy over?! You must have a very low IQ!"
  • A guy, nonchalantly, upon seeing a mutilated cat carcass in the back of their van: "What the hell is this dead cat doing here?"
  • A sweet and loving girl talking to her boyfriend: “Hey Joe, tell your dad to eat shit!” 
  • The same girl giving advice to her boyfriend on confronting the killer: "You better be careful...he looks like a big mutha!"

This is just a taste of the choice dialogue and the whole movie is filled with it so quoting every great line would basically be writing the script...and I’m not completely convinced there ever actually was a script to begin with.

A killer in a Richard Nixon mask.

Jason. Freddy. Michael. Leatherface. A great mask is an important part of a slasher movie and in this one, Bartholomew sports a mask of Slick Rick himself. I gotta say, it’s a pretty damn effective tool. It looks silly, but if I was alone at night and someone popped up looking like that, I’d definitely run after I wet myself. In 2006, we got a killer on a Reagan mask and I absolutely guarantee you there will eventually be a terrifying movie with a killer in a Trump mask, so this movie kind of fits a historical pattern of demonizing conservative presidents and I am always down for that.

There’s a scene that surely inspired the Sideshow Bob “stepping on rakes” scene from The Simpsons.

You’re most likely familiar with the scene to which I’m referring, but just in case you aren’t, here it is: https://youtu.be/0w6L93kD3xw
It’s a great comedic moment, but before The Simpsons was even a thing, this movie gave us a beautiful scene where guy is running from the killer and proceeds to step on a rake and get hit by the handle Sideshow Bob style. He then stumbles around before falling and impaling himself on the business end of the same rake. It’s a great kill scene in a movie full of strange kill scenes except it’s not really a kill scene because the killer doesn’t even have to do anything!

A breast ironing.

What? Yes, you read that right. This movie is full of weird scenes and even weirder kills like the one mentioned above, but my favorite one has to be a scene where a girl gets steam ironed in the chest. Have you ever seen that done before? Of course not...until now. It’s so random and bizarre and the almost uninterested reaction from the girl is just icing on the cake. The only real downside to it is that she was probably the smartest character and definitely the best actress in the whole thing. True story.

A tarot card reading Nazi-loving doctor and rocket science enthusiast who wears tinfoil on his head to deter brain eating parasites.

The most interesting character in this whole wild movie is Dr. Mabuse, the leading expert on crazy Bartholomew and also possibly his son! I mean, I think he is his son. Really, nothing in this movie is clear, but at one point Mabuse proclaims that Bartholomew is his father although we’ll never know for sure since the brain eating parasites were munching away because I guess tinfoil maybe isn’t the best repellent. Nonetheless, the character is looney tunes and everything he does and says is immensely watchable. Downright fascinating.

Bonus Reason: there’s a sequel!

Yep! If you watch this movie and, like me, wish there was more well, there is. Richard Casey returned in 2014 to deliver Horror House on Highway 6 to us eager fans and I’ll save that one for another article, but yes it is also a great, surreal, insane, drug-fueled masterpiece.

At this point, there’s practically no way you can not want to experience this movie and I don’t blame you one bit. Vinegar Syndrome has given this lost treasure a great treatment that includes a commentary by Casey and a “making of” featurette that includes Casey and some of the cast. It’s worth every penny. Bless Vinegar Syndrome for all of the great things they do.