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Long time readers of this blog might remember that I originally conceived of the “Uncanny Highway” as a setting for GROOVY Ghastly Affair (a planned expansion to my Gothic RPG “Ghastly Affair”). As the setting evolved, however, I wanted it to reflect Groovy Era America in all its crazy glory, and not be confined to just places and situations that could be pigeonholed as “Gothic”. To the extent that it reflects any single genre, the Uncanny Highway is therefore best described as “Psychotronic”.

The critical term Psychotronic was coined by writer Michael Weldon, inspired by the movie “The Psychotronic Man”. It designates the type of movies that played in the urban grindhouses and suburban drive-ins of America, especially in the 1960s and 1970s (and into the 1980s). Some “Psychotronic” movies fall more or less comfortably within the Horror genre – other might be best classifiable as Sci Fi, Crime, or Fantasy. Other genres falling under the broad umbrella of the Psychotronic include Road Trip movies, Biker movies, the Nudist and Roughie films of the 1960s, Action films (especially those centered around cars), the Vigilante and Revenge movies that were especially popular in the 70s, and Psychedelic movies. Often, these movies mixed genres in unexpected ways – as in the Satanic Horror Biker movie “Werewolves on Wheels”. What all Psychotronic movies have in common is that they exist outside of “respectable” cinema. The typical Psychotronic film was made independently, with little in the way of budget. Although dismissed as “exploitation” by established critics, these so-called “trashy” films could often deal with themes every bit as important or challenging as the major studio films playing in regular theaters.

Encounters on the Uncanny Highway might be alternately horrifying, mind-bending, funny, and heartbreaking. There is no single story to be told, or even “right” way to run the setting. One group might decide to be a group of outlaw bikers raising hell from town to town. Another group might be a collection of lost and lonely souls wandering the road in search of real human connection. The first group may want to experience every bit of Seventies-tastic sleaze that the GM can throw at them. The second group, on the other, hand may be more interested in interacting with quirky NPCs, and prefer to avoid scenes of violence and degradation. The setting can be run either way (and many other ways as well). Rolling randomly on the Generator Tables can create a wild ride of Extraterrestrial cashiers, Vanishing Hitchhikers, and cannibalistic farmers – but by using the tables as selection lists, one can just as easily use the Uncanny Highway for pure role-playing in an Altman-style world of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.

Here’s two lists of movies to help you better understand the genre(s) of the Uncanny Highway, and the possible range of encounters that PCs might experience there. The first list consist only of movies made in the Groovy Era itself, before 1980. The second list consists of post-1980 movies that deal with the same themes. The flicks here range from grisly horror films to offbeat comedies. Many (especially those made after 1980) are even major studio ventures.

Pre-1980 Movies

200 Motels
Angels’ Wild Women
Billy Jack
The Car
Carnival of Souls
Crash! (1976)
Desperate Living
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
Easy Rider
Eaten Alive
Every Which Way But Loose
Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Hell’s Bloody Devils
Hideout in the Sun
Moving Violation (1976)
Night of the Living Dead
Pink Flamingos
The Psychotronic Man
Race with the Devil
Satan’s Sadists
She-Devils on Wheels
Smokey and the Bandit
Something Weird
The Stepford Wives (1975)
The Getaway (1972)
The Great Texas Dynamite Chase
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
The Trip (1967)
The Wild Angels
Tourist Trap
Truck Stop Women
Up in Smoke
Vanishing Point
Walking Tall
Werewolves on Wheels
White Line Fever

Post-1980 Movies

Bad Times at the El Royale
The Blues Brothers
Breakdown (1997)
The Cannonball Run
Children of the Corn
Crash (1996)
Death Proof
The Devil’s Rejects
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Freeway (1996)
The Funhouse
Gas, Food, Lodging
Halloween III
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
The Hitcher
House of 1,000 Corpses
Lost Highway
Maximum Overdrive
The Mothman Prophesies
My Own Private Idaho
National Lampoon’s Vacation
Natural Born Killers
Near Dark
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Phantasm II
Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea
Strange Invaders
Thelma & Louise
Things are Tough All Over
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
U Turn (1997)
Wild at Heart