- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

Though it's less than a classic of the genre, director William Wesley's Route 666, new from Studio S, delivers enough novel shocks without taking itself too solemnly to qualify as fun Halloween horror viewing. It's our …

Video pick of the week
In "Route 666" (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD), Lou Diamond Phillips and Lori Petty head an ace cast as a pair of Witness Protection Program federal agents who collar fugitive Steven Williams and, trailed by a van filled with fellow fuzz, unwisely decide to take a condemned stretch of the old Route 66 to speed their journey from the Arizona desert to an L.A. courthouse.
Unbeknownst to our law enforcement crew, the road is haunted by the jackhammer-wielding ghosts of four chain-gang prisoners out to avenge their mass murder at the hands and shotguns of corrupt local lawmen three decades earlier.
Somewhat reminiscent in its combined crime and chiller plot of "From Dusk Till Dawn," the 1996 collaboration between Robert Rodriguez ("Spy Kids") and Quentin Tarantino (complete with occasionally irritating Tarantino-wannabe dialogue), "Route 666" springs some sinister surprises of its own. For starters, agent Phillips happens to be the son of one of the vengeful spirits, and the reunion of zombie father and human child supplies the flick with one of its very few poignant moments.
Several solid supporting thesps including L.Q. Jones ("The Wild Bunch") as the current sheriff, Alex MacArthur ("Rampage") as an FBI agent, Gary Farmer ("The Score") in a neat cameo as an American Indian shaman and erstwhile Roger Corman regular Dick Miller as a bartender lend additional pedigree to the supernatural proceedings.
For a Halloween double-header, also scope out the clever Canadian teen-werewolf caper Ginger Snaps, new from Artisan (priced for rental VHS; also available on DVD).

Sci-fi forecast
In near-future sci-fi developments, 20th Century Fox plans a late November launch for Tim Burton's controversial "reimagining" (a polite word for "trashing") of the 1968 sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes, starring Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Roth. Columbia/TriStar sets December dates both for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, powered by computer-generated-images and featuring the vocal talents of Ving Rhames, Ming-Na, Steve Buscemi and James Woods, and the underrated (to say nothing of underseen) John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, featuring Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube and the peerless Pam Grier.
Elsewhere, Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to action in dual roles in Ringo Lam's futuristic Replicant (Artisan), co-starring Michael Rooker ("Henry"). Paramount prepares the video-game-based blockbuster Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie as the fearless title femme. All of the above will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.
Universal, meanwhile, goes the sell-through route with the dinosaur sequel Jurassic Park III ($22.98 VHS, $26.98 DVD), starring Sam Neill and Tea Leoni. World Artists does likewise with cult director Larry ("Habit") Fessenden's 1991 sci-fi debut feature, No Telling ($19.98 VHS, $29.95 DVD).

Sinister surprises
On a final Halloween note, the vintage genre specialists at Sinister Cinema (541/773-6860, www.sinistercinema.com) resurrect a slew of old-school scarefests to help celebrate the season and beyond.
Among the new offerings are three from 1971: Brit horror greats Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in the "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" reworking I, Monster; the haunted-hotel chiller Moonchild, with John Carradine and Victor Buono; and the Euro import The Devil's Nightmare, starring Erika Blanc.
Other fresh fright titles include the effective 1972 Texas indie Enter the Devil, Joe Don Baker and Sandra Locke in 1977's Shadow of Chikara, and the 1972 Spanish shocker Tombs of the Blind Dead.
Also, just in time to key into renewed interest in Jack the Ripper, subject of the new Johnny Depp big-screen thriller "From Hell," comes the 1969 Ripper yarn Night After Night After Night. The cassettes (VHS only) are tagged at $16.95 each.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I haven't had any luck finding Wallace Beery movies, including one called Wyoming, with Marjorie Main, and several in the Min and Bill series. I also would like to find Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, with W.C. Fields and ZaSu Pitts. Any leads?
Jerry Mann, Alexandria
Of the above, the original 1930 "Min and Bill," with Beery and Main, is available ($17.99 VHS only) from Movies Unlimited (800/4-MOVIES, www.moviesunlimited.com). "Mrs. Wiggs" was available briefly on video but is no longer in circulation; you may want to try Scarecrow Video (206/524-8554, www.scarecrow.com) for mail-order rental copies.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at [email protected] And check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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