Joleen (Drew Barrymore) is a fourteen-year-old on a road trip with her father Charlie (Matt Frewer). They run out of gas in a small town in Nevada, where fuel is hard to come by. So they temporarily set up shop in a trailer park. Joleen, eager to meet boys, runs across Jimmy (Andras Jones), the son of the crabby owner (Susan Tyrrell). He seems nice at first, but then tries to rape her. Which drives her into the arms of shy Pinky (Anthony Rapp), who’s nice but a bit off. Meanwhile Charlie is mixing with some colorful characters, like stranded pair Louise (Karen Austin) and Amy (Jennifer Tilly), and hippie Duckett (Richard Masur). Suddenly people at the park start dying off, and the pressure is on for Joleen and Charlie to get the car going, or they’ll be next.
This film was released five years before The Stand, but I was struck by how similar the scenery is between the two movies. It seemed odd because Matt Frewer is in both, and Charlie and Joleen drive by buildings that look just like what his character blows up in The Stand. Otherwise the setting is a bit draining for me. I lived in a trailer for the better part of two years, and I didn’t much cotton to it. It’s not often a film brings up unpleasant memories for me, but this is one of them.
In addition to the reverse nostalgia, the characters are quite annoying. Joleen is the clichéd teen girl: blossoming, wanting independence, and sulking. She’s given to writing diary entries like, “Life is just totally unfair.” It’s the late ‘80s, so she also wears three watches and parts her hair funny.
Charlie is the overprotective dad, holding Joleen’s hand (literally, not just figuratively), and leaving her with a babysitter. Pinky is needy, and Jimmy and his mother are sociopaths. But Jennifer Tilly is one of my favorite actresses, so Amy wasn’t too hard to like. I also had a reluctant admiration for Duckett; he’s a hippie, but not a super stereotypical one—he refuses Louise’s offer to buy gas with marijuana, and he likes to point a gun at people. While I’m grudgingly admitting things, Joleen may be whiny, but she can also be crafty while escaping death, and can defend herself pretty well with a wooden board. Give it a look if you like Barrymore or trailer park murder mysteries.