Fred’s alone in the house when a voice says “Dick Laurent is dead” over his intercom, but there’s no-one outside. That evening, his wife Renée says she’d rather read than come to the club to see him play sax. At the Luna Lounge, Fred at one point performs a wild, erratic jazz solo. He returns home to see Renée sleeping.
Next morning, Renée finds a manilla envelope on their doorstep with a videotape inside. There’s no name on the envelope or the tape itself. Fred plays the tape. There’s brief, grainy footage of the outside of the house. Soon, the couple makes love, she in her black nail varnish. He tells her his dream. She was inside the house calling his name, wondering where he was. He walked into the bedroom and it’s her, but it’s not her. Fred then actually wakes up covered in sweat. He looks at her again and there’s a man’s face on her head. He switches the light back on and it’s Renée again — who’s now concerned.
Next day, she finds another videotape. This one contains footage of the couple in their bedroom as the two of them are sleeping. Renée calls the police. Two detectives soon arrive. One asks Fred what’s his axe. Fred says tenor sax. The detectives check the windows, doors and skylight are secure.
Later, Fred and Renée are at Andy’s house party. Fred is drinking double scotches, downing two right there at the bar. A short, enigmatic man with white face, staring eyes and no eyebrows approaches Fred, saying they’ve met before. Fred denies this. The man presses him, saying they met at his house. Still, Fred doesn’t remember. Then, the stranger says he’s at Fred’s house right now and makes Fred call his own landline. The stranger then answers the phone. He laughs at Fred and walks off. Fred talks with Andy about the stranger he just met. Fred then shows knowledge of Dick Laurent being dead, when he’s never met him. Andy gets upset. On the way home, Fred quizzes Renée about Andy. She says they met a long time ago at a place called Moke’s.
Fred finds another video tape. He plays the tape alone this time. The cameraman walks into the couple’s bedroom to show a scene of carnage. The footage becomes full colour with Fred covered in blood standing over Renée’s corpse. Fred is punched full in the face by a detective. A jury finds him guilty of murder. He’s to be put to death in the electric chair. Fred has bad headaches and tells the doctor he can’t sleep. The doctor gives him medication. A burning shack in the desert reverses into a backward explosion and is suddenly alright. The stranger from the party appears and goes inside.
Fred has violent, waking nightmares. Then, a prison guard notices that instead of Fred Madison in the cell, they’ve got someone called Pete Dayton. Pete’s parents are summoned and they arrive to collect their son. Undercover police park across from their house to try and figure it all out. When Pete’s friends stop by to see how he is, his parents encourage him to go out with them. At a club, his girlfriend, Sheila, dances with him and asks about the bruising on his face. She has strong feelings for him. She’s wearing black nail varnish and they kiss.
Pete is a mechanic and he goes back to work. Mr Eddy, local crime boss, then tells Pete to come for a ride with him and his thugs. As they drive, they allow the car to make any sounds that might require Pete’s expert mechanic skills.
On a winding, mountain road, a car tail-gates them. Mr Eddy waves them on, but the other driver flips him the bird. Both henchmen in the back seat quickly fasten their seatbelts. Mr Eddy furiously catches up with the car and rams it repeatedly. They crash and both Mr Eddy’s thugs get out, brandishing their guns. The driver is dragged out of his car and down onto the ground. Mr Eddy educates the driver at gunpoint about the importance of good driving, even explaining stopping distances and nationwide statistics of automotive fatalities. He makes the bloodied and dishevelled driver promise to get a copy of the drivers’ manual and really study it. Later, the stakeout cops identify Mr Eddy as Dick Laurent.
There’s erratic jazz music on the radio as Pete tinkers underneath a car. Dick Laurent arrives with his Cadillac, but Pete is transfixed by the man’s girlfriend. She comes back that evening to collect Dick’s car. She’s Alice Wakefield. The two arrange a date but skip dinner. Later on, she calls to say she can’t see him because Dick might suspect something.
To make some money, the lovers prepare to rob Andy at 2224, Deep Dell Place. She’ll send Andy downstairs for a drink at exactly 11.15pm and Pete will crack him in the head. Meanwhile, Dick’s on the phone trying to get the measure of Pete. Dick passes the phone over to the stranger from Andy’s party. He says that, in China, condemned men are sent to a place where they can be killed at any moment, but don’t know when. Pete is shaken as he hangs up the phone.
Pete climbs the fence to Andy’s house, goes inside, sees Alice doing porn on a big projector screen and cracks Andy over the head as planned. But, Andy recovers, jumps up, flies at Pete and ends up with his head impaled on the corner of the glass coffee table. Pete gets a headache and asks where the bathroom is. Behind one door he tries, there’s nothing but porn and heavy metal music.
Alice is now busy filling a bag with things. She says she knows a fence — in a cabin in the desert. The cabin burns, then reverse explodes again. There’s no-one there when they arrive, so they wait. Pete questions their relationship, but she just kisses him. They make love on the sand by the light of the car. He repeats “I want you”. She whispers back “You’ll never have me”.
Pete stands up in the headlights in the desert and turns around as Fred Madison. The mysterious man appears again. Fred asks where Alice is. The stranger insists that her name is Renée then starts filming Fred. He angrily asks Fred what his name is. Fred drives away in a cloud of dust.
The Lost Highway Hotel. In room 26, Alice is making love Dick. Fred enters room 25. Alice leaves Dick in bed. Fred bursts in on him at gunpoint and bundles him into the trunk of his car. Fred drives for a while, then parks. Dick Laurent jumps out and attacks Fred. A knife appears in Fred’s hand and he uses it to slice Dick’s throat.
Dick Laurent is bleeding badly, with the stranger and Fred standing over him. The stranger hands him a portable TV showing porn. At this, Dick Laurent starts reminiscing. The stranger then shoots Dick several times.
Fred approaches his house in daytime and presses the buzzer. He carefully says “Dick Laurent is dead” into it.
Starring Bill Pullman. Patricia Arquette. John Roselius. Rated 18. Dir David Lynch. Released in the UK 1997. Runtime 2hrs 14mins