Directed by Sonny Fernandez
Written by Sonny Fernandez
Starring Cody Tergesen, Liz Dockter, Sonny Fernandez, Kim Haarman, Aaron Swenson, & Justin Kavlie
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Sonny Fernandez turns in another low budget opus in HIGHWAY 91 that once again never fails to amaze me at the ambition and ingenuity the writer/director/musical scorer/special effects artist/actor exudes in every scene. Yes, the film looks like it was filmed in the backyard and surrounding woods of the filmmakers’ neighborhood. Yes, the actors look to be a gathering of a bunch of friends just doing this for shits and giggles. Yes, the special effects look like they were made with aluminum foil and plaster from a special needs class. But dammit if I don’t find every one of Sonny Fernandez’ films to be utterly endearing in every way.
HIGHWAY 91 is an epic zombie film focusing on a trio of likable characters making the best of the zombie apocalypse. What I like about the recent wave of zombie films is that they aren’t outbreak films. They’re survivor films. How many times have you seen the initial outbreak and the hysteria and panic everyone goes through as the dead walk? I’m glad the new trend is for folks to work on surviving the zombie plague rather than panicking upon first sight of it. I like it that from the beginning, these three unlikely heroes; the noble bow & arrow wielder (Cody Tergesen), as the snarky jokester with a sledgehammer (Sonny Fernandez himself), and jaded punk girl with blades (Liz Dockter). Fernandez spends enough time allowing these three interact in fun and exciting ways to make them worth following. They spend all day fighting zombies and hiking the countryside and try to sleep at night in the woods dreaming of their past lives and what they miss from them. When the trio happen upon a couple with stories of a rumored safe haven at the end of Highway 91, they group up and decide to take the path north to Canada. Along the way, they meet a camp of buried undead, a group of thugs taking advantage of the weak, a serial killer, and a religious compound holding what might be the cure for the zombie apocalypse.
If HIGHWAY 91 sounds ambitious, it is. There’s enough story in this film for three movies, but Fernandez crams it all into one. As always, the highlight of Fernandez’ films is his script. This ambitious trek has dialog both clever and fun that flow naturally from the amateur cast. Though taking heavy portions from Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD comic book series about the ongoing adventures of a group of survivors during the zombie apocalypse, HIGHWAY 91 is a low budget masterpiece and proof that a good script can make one look past shortcomings such as low fi effects, amateur acting, and sketchy editing. Having seen and reviewed three of Fernandez’s films here on AICN HORROR, I’m convinced the guy’s got talent. One of these days he’ll get a budget and some backing and I’m sure this guy will take off. In the meantime, the guy is churning out backyard horror like no other with a dedication to the genre and an ear for good dialog. There’s more passion in any of Fernandez’s films toward the genre of horror than most Hollywood horror films you’ll see this year. HIGHWAY 91 is rough around the edges, but at its core it relishes in pure horror.