The Great Monte Hellman Returns With Road to Nowhere


Road to Nowhere is the first feature by Monte Hellman the Great since 1989’s Silent Night, Deadly Night 3, an ignoble last chapter, that, for an artist who at his peak (Two-Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter) superbly combined an absurdist worldview and snapshot-authentic Middle America. But rather than rehashing the old hits, 79-year-old Hellman has ranged out here. Combining an almost quaint self-reflexiveness with state-of-the-art digital filmmaking, Road concerns the production of a film based on a controversial lovers’ double-suicide in North Carolina. Director Mitchell Haven (Tygh Runyan) is determined to have a young undiscovered (Shannyn Sossamon) for his lead—unaware that he’s actually cast the True Crime character’s real-life basis, living incognito after faking her death. Sossamon, with her geometric elegance and placid voice, is a captivating muse—especially good are her scenes running lines with co-star Cliff De Young. While juggling Mitchell and his star’s on-set affair, the interference of a conspiracy-minded blogger (Dominique Swain) and rockabilly insurance investigator (Waylon Payne), and sundry international intrigues, Road remains a purposefully immobile, downbeat “thriller.” The screenplay is by Variety editor Steven Gaydos, and it combines a working knowledge of on-set dynamics with corny cinephile in-joking, frequently elevated by the fresh evidence of Hellman’s craft in the tranquil, largely nocturnal atmosphere, until the closing-credits song ruins everything.