Teenager Vanessa Lutz, on her own after her mother is arrested, sets out to find her grandmothers house, and hitches a lift from apparently decent driver Bob Wolverton, who turns out to be a serial killer. She escapes, but Vanessa is arrested for assaul
The road-crime movie is such a formula in Hollywood that almost every debuting director turns one out, but writer-director Matthew Bright rings the changes by modeling this white trash nightmare on Red Riding Hood. Reese Witherspoon, turning her career around after ‘good girl’ roles in the likes of The Man in the Moon, is hilarious as the fifteen-year-old hitch-hiker (‘them are some mighty big fuckin' teeth ya got there, Bob’) who runs across plausible psychopath Kiefer Sutherland, who claims to be a therapist and gets her to open up to him about the abuse she has suffered from her stepfather before she realises he’s getting off on her story (‘take it from me, a professional, Vanessa – you are a fucking moron’).
The latter stages become especially twisted, with Witherspoon having a grim time in a hellhole juvenile prison (where she is befriended by lesbian Brittany Murphy) and Sutherland showing off hideous disfigurement (‘look who got hit with the ugly stick’) as he sets out to get twisted revenge. There are great supporting sleaze performances from Dan Hedaya, Brooke Shields, Amanda Plummer (as Riding Hood's crack ho momma) and Bokeem Woodbine.
Bright, who is evidently a big fan of John Waters ‘early, funny movies’, followed up with Confessions of a Trick Baby, sometimes known as Freeway 2, which is an equally perverse take on Hansel and Gretel featuring Natasha Lyonne and Maria Celedonio as wild grrls on the run, with Vincent Gallo as a transvestite witch who runs a kiddie porn empire.
Not for the faint hearted but should have been much bigger than it was.