During the 1996 Sundance film festival that was noted for Welcome to the Dollhouse, Citizen Ruth and When We Were Kings, one of the films that got a big buzz was Freeway. The film was described as a sleazy update of Little Red Riding Hood. Keifer Sutherland (The Lost Boys) was described as completely extraordinarily creepy as the Big Bad Wolf. Most of the praise went to Reese Witherspoon as foul mouth Little Red Riding Hood that was ready for the Jerry Springer Show. This was before Legally Blonde and Election so we didn’t know who Reese was. But somehow things got messed up between Park City and your local megaplex. Freeway fizzled at the box office. The film gained a cult on home video and HBO where it seemed to play as much as Taxicab Confessions. The film only got more traction as Reese’s stature grew. Little did we know that the outrageous R-rated movie had a more extreme cut lurking in the vault. Over 25 years later, Vinegar Syndrome has released the uncut version of Freeway that makes this twisted tale a cinematic masterpiece.
Vanessa Julia Lutz (Reese Witherspoon) is not growing up in the ideal home situation. She’s living in a dive motel. Her mother Ramona (Pulp Fiction’s Amanda Plummer) is a hooker that works the street. Her stepfather (The Pretender‘s Michael T. Weiss) comes on to her when mom is turning tricks. Vanessa is as tough as the other two in her dirty language and street attitude. The family magic comes to an abrupt end with mom gets busted for soliciting an undercover cop and the stepfather gets pulled in for his activities. This leaves Vanessa alone except she has one hope. She can go live with her grandmother. Her journey on the I-5 freeway gets nasty when her station wagon breaks down. Luckily a good Samaritan stops on the side of the road to help her out – at least it’s lucky for her. Bob Wolverton (Flatliners‘ Kiefer Sutherland) seems like a nice guy as he offers to get her to grandma’s house. He seems to care about her as they talk at dinner and during the drive. The comfort of the stranger doesn’t last long when Bob admits he’s the I-5 Killer. But she’s not defenseless to this wolf in man’s skin. This leads to a bigger journey as the law thinks he’s the innocent victim. Can she ever get to grandma’s house?
Freeway is star packed beyond Keifer, Reese and Amanda Plummer. Brooke Shields (Pretty Baby) gives one of her finest performances as Keifer’s wife who swears her husband is the real victim. Dan Heydaya (Cheers) is the detective on her trail. Brittany Murphy (Clueless) is a troubled cellmate. There’s even Conchata Ferrell (Two and A Half Men) as the person wanting to get Vanessa’s life a bit sorted out. Also in the cast is Guillermo Diaz (Half Baked), Tara Subkoff (Last Days of Disco) and Bokeem Woodbine (Spider-Man: Homecoming).
Freeway in the uncut form is even more intense than the original. The conversations between Vanessa and Bob get nastier as he reveals his true motive for picking up the girl on the side of the road. Shame the MPAA had to snip back so much for the movie to get an R rating. After they appeased the MPAA, there was no real theatrical release audience. The good news is you can now get an almost theatrical experience at home with the 4K UHD release of Freeway. You’ll be able to marvel at Reese Witherspoon playing a blond who has zero intention on getting into Harvard. The best news is that after nearly 25 years, Freeway seems as fresh and outrageous as seen by the audience at Sundance except you’ll get to see a bit more than they did. Freeway remains a fantastic adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood ever made.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic restored from the original 35mm camera negative. The 4K UHD presentation brings out the red elements on the screen. Audio is the original uncut DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Soundtrack Mix. This is not the 5.1 surround mix that was originally created for the R-rated version.
Blu-ray features everything on the 4K UHD disc.
Audio Commentaries include an archival track with writer/director Matthew Bright and a new track he recently recorded with Vinegar Syndrome’s Brad Henderson. Bright talks about how he was able to get his pal Danny Elfman to do the score for a $1 and a strange favor. He also points out the people in the photos that are Granny and Vanessa’s dad.
Vulgarity is Timeless (30:57) interview with writer/director Matthew Bright. He talks about how he went from working with Oingo Boingo on Forbidden Zone to writing Drew Barrymore’s Guncrazy and getting his big step up to director thanks to Oliver Stone liking the script to Freeway. They originally had John Travolta, but the producers weren’t into the actor since it was right before Pulp Fiction so he was still that guy from Looking Who’s Talking. Keifer Sutherland came on board right before the producers were going to dump Bright and let Oliver Stone direct. He was able to make his low rent version of Little Red Riding Hood.
Producing Freeway (18:32) with producer Brad Wyman. He talks about his first producing gig was Donald Cammell’s White of the Eye. He found the script in a producer pal’s pile of scripts while at Cannes. He optioned Freeway and another script by Bright. He likes that it tells the story of a serial killer that turns out to be Little Red Riding Hood.
Changing Lanes (17:15) chats with editor Maysie Hoy. She had done Robert Altman’s The Player and The Joy Luck Club before she got an offer for Freeway. She was between gigs and hit it off with Bright. She was able to tell him if footage worked or didn’t without him being offended.
To Catch A Predator (11:09) sits down with actor Wolfgang Bodison. He gets into playing the detective after doing A Few Good Men. He got the call while working on The Highlander series. This was the first gig he signed without an audition. He enjoyed the fun in the script.
You’re Under Arrest (12:12) reads the rights with actor Robert Peters. He talks about playing the undercover cop who busts Amanda Plummer. He gives his feelings about working with Matthew Bright and Reece Witherspoon.
Murder Twins (24:23) reunites actresses Leanna Creel and Monica Lacy. They aren’t actually twins – they’re triplets, but they can’t remember why their other sister wasn’t in the film. This was the first time they played killers after doing a few Disney productions. They learned the word “shiv.”
Archival Interviews includes talks with Matthew Bright (14:46), Amanda Plummer (3:07), Composer Danny Elfman (4:23), Oliver Stone (8:06) and Samuel Hadida (8:20). Elfman talks about his high school friend finally getting to direct. He mentions he never preconceives the score from reading the script because by the time the movie is made, it’s not the film he imagined. He waits to see the rough cut of the film.
Raw Behind the Scenes Footage (6:09) shows off the courtroom and prison scenes.
Original Electronic Press Kit Featurette (5:44) is what was sent out to TV shows.
On-Set “Soundbite” Interviews (8:32) has Reece and others talk about the film for the EPK.
Original Video Trailer (1:46) is how most people saw the film over the years when the VHS was at Vizarts.
Alternate Scenes from the R-Rated Cut (6:32) is how the producers watered down the movie to avoid the NC-17 rating. They dialed back a lot of dialogue.
Vinegar Syndrome presents Freeway. Directed by Matthew Bright. Screenplay by Matthew Bright. Starring Keifer Sutherland, Reese Witherspoon, Brittany Murphy, Brooke Shields and Dan Hedaya. Running Time: 104 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Release Date: November 25, 2022.