FAR FROM HOME
“One boy wants her love. One boy wants her dead.”
Director: Meiert Avis / Writers: Ted Gershuny & Tommy Lee Wallace / Cast: Drew Barrymore, Matt Frewer, Richard Masur, Karen Austin, Jennifer Tilly, Andras Jones, Anthony Rapp, Susan Tyrrell, Dick Miller, Stephanie Walski, Connie Sawyer.
Body count: 6
The main critical objection to Far From Home upon its 1989 release was that it exploited then 13-year-old Drew Barrymore – who was at the peak of her personal problems – and it’s hard not to agree, just look at the VHS cover there. From the outset, we’re shown her character Joleen slo-mo swimming in a little black bikini, having ice seductively rubbed over her skin, and then almost date-raped by a character played by then 20-year-old Andras Jones. It’s… icky.
On the eve of her 14th birthday, Joleen and her dad Charlie (Barrymore and Frewer – Drew n’ Frew) are nearing the end of a summer driving around freeways as part of his journalism career, when they run out of gas and find themselves stuck in the small Nevada hamlet of Banco, population 132. Rented a trailer for the night by the crotchety Agnes, Joleen meets Jimmy, Agnes’ hunky son, while Charlie spends his time looking for gas to buy so they can get home to LA.
Someone is prowling the area with murder in mind, and Agnes is soon electrocuted while she takes a bath. In the trailer park, they meet fellow strandees Louise and Amy, and agree to use what little gas they source to carpool back to California. Joleen, meanwhile, flirts with Jimmy, who attempts to rape her, only to be saved by awkward teen Pinky (Rapp, recently notable in the Kevin Spacey scandal).
When they attempt to leave, “mystery”-killer punctures the gas tank and drives a remote controlled car with a lit candle underneath, blowing up their only means of escape (and the poor soul trapped inside). Jimmy is the natural suspect and eventually apprehended, but the actual identity of the loon is startlingly obvious to the rest of us.
Nicely photographed with some elements of decent direction from music video helmer Avis, it’s also nice to see a film not confined to middle-class suburbs. But the paper-thin whodunit, ridiculous over-acting by Tyrrell, and the Dear Diary narration from Barrymore undermine what could’ve been achieved given the capable cast (Masur is good as the anti-cash mechanic, though other actors are wasted in thankless roles) and crew (Tommy Lee Wallace! Mary Woronov’s late husband!). Sadly though, the exploitation of an underage girl is what you’ll remember most. Eww.
Ultimately, the film failed due to studio problems that resulted in it playing in barely a handful of theaters (like, four).
Blurbs-of-interest: Barrymore, of course, would later play Casey Becker in Scream; Andras Jones was Rick in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4; Jennifer Tilly was Tiffany in Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky, Curse of Chucky, and Cult of Chucky, as well as appearing in The Caretaker; Tyrrell was the psycho auntie of Night Warning; the woman being seen to in the trailer was adult star Teri Weigel, who was in Cheerleader Camp.