Freeway (1988) poster

Freeway (1988)


USA. 1988.


Director – Francis Delia, Screenplay – Francis Delia & Darrell Fetty, Based on the Novel by Deanne Barkley, Producers – Peter S. Davis & William Panzer, Photography – Frank Byers, Music – Joe Delia, Special Effects Supervisor – Gary D’Amico, Production Design – Douglas Metrov. Production Company – Gower Street Pictures.


Darlanne Fluegel (Sarah ‘Sunny’ Harper), James Russo (Frank Quinn), Richard Belzer (Dr David Lazarus), Billy Drago (Edward Anthony Heller), Michael Callan (Lieutenant Boyle), Clint Howard (Ronnie), Joey Palese (Lieutenant Gomez), Laurie Foshay (Laura North), Kenneth Tobey (Monsignor Kavanaugh), Gloria Edwards (Nurse Mary)


The Los Angeles freeways are being stalked by a killer that shoots other drivers. Nurse Sarah ‘Sunny’ Harper’s husband was one of the killer’s victims. She pushes the police to find the killer but they have no clues. The killer keeps calling into the radio talkshow of psychologist Dr David Lazarus after each of his kills. Sarah teams up with Lazarus and Frank Quinn, a stranger who comes to her aid after a road rage incident, to track the killer, a former Catholic priest.

The late 1980s saw a minor spate of freeway/highway killer films. The success among these was The Hitcher (1986), while the period also saw The Freeway Maniac (1989) and Midnight Ride (1990). This fad may well have been inspired by the real-life Freeway Killer William Bonin who stalked the L.A. freeways, picking up and killing young men around 1979-80 – his story is depicted in Freeway Killer (2010). Freeway – not to be confused with Matthew Bright’s subsequent Freeway (1996), a modernised version of Little Red Riding Hood (which also casts the Big Bad Wolf as a serial killer prowling the freeways), was another of these freeway killer films.

The radio talkback host vs psycho theme was first done in the slasher film Don’t Answer the Phone! (1980), Also around this same time there were other psycho calls in to a radio talkback show films with the likes of Open House (1987) and Dead Air (1994), as well as one of the plot strands in Outside Ozona (1998).

Freeway has certainly been given a reasonable budget and semi-recognisable cast. It comes from producers Peter S. Davis and William Panzer, who were behind other films of the era such as The Osterman Weekend (1983), Cat Chaser (1989), Cutting Class (1989), but whose greatest success was Highlander (1986). From this you get the impression that the film’s intended destination was theatrical release as opposed to a quickie video release.

Billy Drago as the serial killer in Freeway (1988)
Billy Drago as the ex-Catholic priest serial killer

As Psycho Films go, Freeway is distinctly average – neither particularly good, nor anything bad. The psycho himself is nothing too interesting. All we get is closeups of Billy Drago’s face and assorted set-pieces where he cruises by in a car and shoots people. At least both Rutger Hauer’s John Ryder and the real-life William Bonin have much more interesting m.o.’s. The direction by Francis Delia, who elsewhere has worked in episodic tv, is unexceptional.

Certainly, the film comes with an interesting cast. Darlanne Fluegel was a former model turned actress in films ranging from To Live and Die in L.A. (1986) to Pet Sematary II (1992); Billy Drago had gained quite a reasonable reputation in B movie parts. Clint Howard has a far more interesting role than Billy Drago as a sleazy car mechanic. The most interesting name is Richard Belzer, later of tv shows such as Homicide: Life on the Streets (1993-9) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999- ), is one of his earliest performances.

Trailer here

Full film available here

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