While film and media studies abounds with studies of the road as a narrative device, little work has been done to explore the significance of the road as a material space that influences film production. This essay examines the impact of the Interstate Highway System on the popular imagination of rural space in the postwar United States, first through an analysis of government and sponsored films that promoted construction of the system and emphasized its status as an aesthetic project that would usher in a new visual experience of the US interior influenced by cinematic concepts. These films show that interstate highway planners sought to bypass untidy, peopled places in favor of smoother, more convenient spaces. Within this new paradigm, bypassed rural spaces—once considered a wellspring of "American values"—were increasingly viewed as suspect. The essay concludes by connecting the new visual experience of interstate travel to the rise of the slasher-horror genre, which was influenced by superhighway construction and capitalized on the emergent view of the countryside as a frightening space.


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pp. 3-17
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