You’d probably be forgiven if you didn’t remember The Legend of Hallowdega, an 18-minute short film released in 2010 and (bizarrely) directed by Monty Python veteran Terry Gilliam.
This black comedy/mockumentary/horror short is probably something more appropriate to visit ahead of the October race at Talladega Superspeedway this year, but I was itching to write about it, and here we are. Besides, I had the chance to meet horror icon Bruce Campbell last week and that sent me on a full-series rewatch of the Evil Dead franchise ahead of the new installment’s release, so that genre’s been on my mind as of late.
“Bizarre” is a word that’ll probably crop up a few times in this piece, and rightfully so; Hallowdega is an incredibly weird short film. Let’s start with some background (at least, what little I can find).
We’re essentially shown right away that it’s an AMP Energy Juice-sponsored production, thanks to an introduction from Dale Earnhardt Jr., and per Wikipedia it was produced by RadicalMedia and filmed in both Charlotte and Talladega. The short also ends with an “in celebration of the AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega” message, and Junior had a paint scheme promoting it on his car for the event:
We’ll get to how that race went later (spoiler alert: it didn’t go well for the No. 88).
Before that, the short film. The small cast is led by Justin Kirk, a veteran of both movies and TV. His most prominent credits include the recent Oscar-nominated films Molly’s Game and Vice, the latter of which featured Kirk as former U.S. Chief of Staff Scooter Libby. Kirk’s television appearances include main or recurring roles on Weeds, Modern Family, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and more.
Joining Kirk is David Arquette, one of the mainstays of the Scream franchise through last year’s fifth installment. Arquette’s role as Dewey Riley became a staple in the horror series; he was initially supposed to die at the hands of Ghostface in the 1996 classic, but director Wes Craven reportedly loved the character enough to make his fate ambiguous in the event viewers also became attached to the deputy sheriff. More recently, Arquette was also in the cast of S. Craig Zahler’s Kurt Russell vehicle Bone Tomahawk in 2015.
Director Terry Gilliam’s credits, along with the obvious (Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life), consist of the likes of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 12 Monkeys and Brazil.
Kirk portrays Justin Thyme, the host of fictional program “World of the Unexplained,” and is joined by a number of crew members. Arquette’s character is Kiyash Monsef, a conspiracy theorist obsessed with the paranormal and the “curse” of Talladega Superspeedway.
You can watch the full short on YouTube here:
I won’t spoil everything, since it is indeed a fun watch, but “fans” and “employees” give testimony to the mystique of the 2.66-mile superspeedway. The research was there: the script touches on the stories of Talladega being built on a Native American burial ground and other similar rumors — including Junior himself citing the tale of Bobby Isaac parking his car after voices told him to get out.
Arquette’s character attempts to show Thyme foolproof evidence of the mayhem, leading to an entertaining photo-development scene where a headless skeleton, riding a horse and holding a headdress-adorned skull aloft, appears among a 2006 crash during the Aaron’s 499.
Our characters then split up, with Monsef and some of the crew heading to the infield while Thyme and the other part of the crew chat with Earnhardt and a vendor.
The best moment comes during this sequence, where Monsef and two film crew members are checking out some footage in a tent set up inside of turns 3 and 4. As they attempt to figure out the cause of the crashes, Monsef realizes the ghosts of Native Americans aren’t impacting the cars at all. A crewmember points to a clip of Neil Bonnett‘s violent 1993 flip and asks if the ghosts caused that one.
“Oh no, that’s Bobby Ingus,” Monsef says, deadpan. “He’s just a terrible, terrible driver.”
Enter a clip of Elliott Sadler’s 2003 flip, where the conflict comes to a head between Monsef and the crewmen; the latter attempt to leave as Monsef threatens cannibalism, and it cuts to a not-too-bad CGI shot of Sadler’s No. 38 landing on the tent and killing all three. The weirdest thing, though, is when it cuts to a shot of Ricky Rudd‘s 1984 Busch Clash flip for some reason and doubles down by overlaying Sadler’s number on top of the No. 15.
The production does mostly nail the crash content it intersperses, from typical “Big Ones” at Talladega to more recognizable crashes like Bobby Allison‘s flight into the catch fence in 1987. Harder to explain, though, is one longer showcase of Tony Stewart‘s dramatic 2001 flip … in the Daytona 500. Carl Edwards‘ airborne 2009 crash is also missing, and the Sadler-Rudd hybrid might be the weirdest thing in the entire production.
It’s not consistent with the clips it shows, where during the final sequence of “one race” it jumps from 2001 to 2003 to the 2003-1984 hybrid. It’s incredibly surreal, but it somehow completely works when taking the Monty Python elements into consideration.
The ending also takes a pretty Python-esque turn, where the cause of the Talladega chaos turns out to be a wildly straightforward, of-this-earth explanation.
Do I think Gilliam himself follows NASCAR? I have no idea. Maybe I’ll have to dig to find that out, but for now that remains in the World of the Unexplained.
For what it’s worth, NASCAR tends to show up in the weirdest of places. Michael Haneke remade his 1997 horror classic Funny Games in 2007 for American audiences, and — of all things — the 2006 ARCA Menards Series race at Talladega shows up on a blood-spattered TV.
The actual race the short film promoted took place on Halloween afternoon of 2010 and was won by Clint Bowyer. It’s probably most notable for its last-lap crash in which AJ Allmendinger‘s No. 43 ended up on its roof just past the start/finish line. In one of the more bizarre (there’s that word is again) flips of the time, Allmendinger’s upside-down Ford bounced a couple times on its roof before hitting the inside wall, rolling again and pirouetting on its nose before crashing back down onto all four tires.
Bowyer and Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick dueled for the win, but Bowyer was ruled ahead at the time of caution after the last-lap accident. Earnhardt’s scheme was caught up in a wreck with 55 laps to go, after the No. 88 got into Jeff Burton and turned the No. 31 into the wall; also moderately involved was Jamie McMurray, driving a No. 1 paying tribute to Jr.’s father.
Between the Hallowdega scheme getting crashed, Allmendinger’s unique tumble and the finish, it felt pretty appropriate for a Halloween race.
About the author
Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.
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