I can’t imagine a horror fan not enjoying 1997’s BREAKDOWN. Sure it’s more likely to be thrown into the action/thriller pile but it skillfully drives well past suspenseful and crashes into something scarier than your average fright flick. Not to mention this baby also stars two of horror fandom’s favorite folks, frequent JOHN CARPENTER cohort KURT RUSSELL and resplendent KATHLEEN QUINLAN of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, WARNING SIGN, EVENT HORIZON and THE HILL HAVE EYES (remake) fame. If you are not a KATHLEEN QUINLAN supporter then I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave these premises…shoo! I said good day sir!
What I can tell you without ruining the point of watching the movie is this: our chums KURT and KATHLEEN portray likable married couple Jeff and Amy Taylor who are relocating themselves to California and have to drive through that gross part of America where all the crazies live. Their car breaks down and Amy gets a lift from a trucker (the always dependable, exceptionally good and surprising menacing J.T. WALSH) to get to a nearby diner to call for assistance and maybe get an iced tea. Later when Jeff gets to the diner to meet up with his wife, she’s nowhere to be found and the trucker acts like he’s never seen him or her before! Yep, it’s a total nightmare and things just get worse and worse from there as justifiably paranoid Jeff does everything possible to find his wife while uncovering the evilest of peoples and the shadiest of happenings.
After you watch BREAKDOWN you must watch DYING ROOM ONLY or wait, maybe you should watch DYING ROOM ONLY first. Yeah, do that instead. It’s only fair because DYING is from 1973 and it came out first and it’s one of the best TV movies ever made and why wouldn’t it be when it was written by genre legend and a half RICHARD (too many stone cold classics to list) MATHESON? DYING ROOM ONLY concerns the slightly less affable married couple Bob and Jean Mitchell (my dream parents DABNEY COLEMAN and CLORIS LEACHMAN) who stop off at an out of the way diner in the middle of nowhere and live to fully regret it. When Jean returns from using the ladies room her husband is nowhere to be found and every creepy person in the diner starts acting like a cat that swallowed a DABNEY COLEMAN-flavored canary. Again, I’m not going to ruin anything but the more Jean investigates the more horrific and widespread the conspiracy appears to be and there doesn’t seem to be a limit to the evil those involved are capable of.
If you haven’t noticed yet BREAKDOWN and DYING ROOM ONLY mirror each other and are two peas in a pod especially if one of those peas has gone missing and the other has to search for it. Both flicks expertly rake similar fears involving mistrust of strangers (particularly in areas far from home) and the anxieties and frustrations that orbit our inability to fully insure the safety of our loved ones. I say get on these! Both are nail-biting essentials especially if you have control issues, chronic ruraphobia and a healthy and well-warranted mistrust of greasy spoons.