This is not a review of the 2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody Jailbreak. We reviewed a very similar version of this car in 2021. You can read that review here.
Ever since the thunderstorm rolled through late August, things felt weird. I remember the lightning; it seemed like a hundred flashes a second, some as bright as daylight. The thunder was nowhere near as dramatic, as the howling winds and seemingly endless pitter-patter of the heavy rain drowned most of it out.
The storm passed as quickly as it came, but it felt as though the atmosphere shifted. Like the electricity lingered in the air long after the lightning stopped. In the following weeks, I’d occasionally hear a distant rumble and feel the ground tremble, growing louder and more intense as time went on. One night, it jolted me awake at 3 AM; my heart pounded, and my t-shirt and pillowcase were soaked. I swore the sound came from the foot of the driveway, so I crept over to the window, but I was too late. The rumbling and trembling stopped, and nothing outside seemed amiss. My wife thought I was crazy — annoyed, even, for waking her up in the middle of the night — so I didn’t bring it up again.
October was unseasonably warm this year. Even Halloween was pleasant enough for mid-autumn. This was our first one in the new house; we went all-out with decorations, and much to my disappointment, we gave away almost all the candy. It was a successful first Halloween, but once the trick-or-treaters returned home, the pup desperately needed a walk.
We had a full moon a few nights before, so it was still bright enough to light up the wispy clouds and indigo sky. The street lights cast a warm glow over the neighbourhood as thick fog slowly rolled through. There was nothing but the bliss of near-silence; the low whirr of the highway in the distance, the crickets singing, the leaves crunching beneath my feet. The pup barely managed a few steps before burying her face in the grass over and over, dropping leaves and pine cones as quickly as she picked them up. If her frenzied tail-wagging was any indication, she was having a blast.
But she noticed it before I did. Darting across the sidewalk and nearly tripping me, she ditched the pine cone and buried her face in the grass again. She followed her nose for a few more steps and stopped in her tracks in front of the cemetery entrance. Her perky ears twitched like mini satellite dishes, her gaze glued on something in the distance. No matter how many times I gently tugged her leash, she refused to snap out of it. Then, I felt it again. The ground began to tremble, and the pup glanced up at me.
“Awoo?!” she whimpered.
“It’s OK, sweetie,” I mumbled. “Maybe mom will believe you.”
We both looked down the pathway. I couldn’t see much, but something around the corner lit up the fog. The light grew brighter, the lumpy rumble louder, the trembling more intense with every step. We rounded the corner, and then — nothing. The shaking stopped. The blinding light was gone. The fog dissipated. There was nothing but leaves, a lonely path snaking through gravestones and dotted with dim lights, and a garbage can. Perfect — I had to toss the pup’s recycled dinner, anyway.
But as I tossed the bag, the light flicked on behind me, again bathing everything in a blinding white light. The pup jumped into my arms, petrified. I held her close and stroked the scruff of her neck, but it was all for naught. Both of our hearts felt ready to rocket out of our chests.
“It’s OK, sweetie,” I whispered, hoping to ease her nerves as much as my own.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and noticed a faint smell of — gasoline? Burnt rubber? No, it couldn’t be, but by the time I opened my eyes again, the thick fog returned. I could barely see an arm’s length in front of me. I should’ve run at that very moment, but I felt compelled to turn around. The source of the light was still obscured by the fog, but whatever demon bent on terrorizing me began to wake up. It gurgled to life, settling into the same rumble that pulled me out of bed a few weeks ago in the middle of the night.
‘Oh, come on,’ I thought. ‘All this time, it was some arse-clown driving a who-knows-what? Who the hell drives through a cemetery on Halloween and terrorizes someone walking their dog?!‘
I couldn’t make out what kind of car it was, but it revved. Twice. The rabid, eight-cylinder snarl was punctuated by the unmistakable, high-pitched whine of a supercharger. Moments later, the fog thinned out just enough for me to make out a wide silhouette, bulging fenders, and wide-set headlights. Annoyed, I flipped off the driver, turned around, and set off down the path again. But the pup, still frightened, leapt right out of my arms.
“Hey!” I yelled. “Get back here!”
She darted off and the moment I took my first step, the car charged ahead. I heard its tires scramble for traction in the gravel, but my Birkenstocks were hardly a better choice for chasing after a puppy and running from a car. Huffing and puffing, I was closing the gap between myself and the pup, but the car was closing in on us, too. It still fought for traction around corners, but the headlights got brighter, and the rabid roar of the engine grew louder. Its struggling gave me just enough time to scoop up the pup and sprint out of the cemetery, but I underestimated the height of the curb, lost my footing, and crash-landed onto the road.
After a split second, I regained my bearings, shuffled over to a parked car, and took refuge. Don’t ask me what it was; I was far too focused on keeping myself and my pup alive.
Within moments, the car burst out of the cemetery, caught some air over the curb, and skidded to a halt under a street light. I poked my head out from behind the parked car; the satin black hood, purple paintwork, and bulbous fenders gleamed under the light. It was a Dodge Charger Hellcat — but this was no ordinary Hellcat. It idled closer, itching to consume anything in its path, but then eased to a stop. With my heart in my throat, I couldn’t believe what I saw next: the window rolled down, but there was no one in the driver’s seat. I could only see the SRT logo embossed in the blood red upholstery.
All at once, the window rolled back up, the Hemi V8’s lumpy idle erupted into a roar punctuated by the banshee wail from the supercharger, and the rear wheels exploded into a burnout as fierce as the thunderstorm that started this all. The plume of smoke grew thicker until it enveloped everything — and then, silence.
The smoke cleared. I looked at my pup; she was sitting and laser-focused yet again on something in the distance, except this time, it was in the general direction of home. Dogs just know. We picked ourselves up and headed back quickly, but as I slipped my hand into my pocket, I felt something that wasn’t there before. Confused, I reached in and pulled out a red key fob — it was the Hellcat’s blood red key fob. I double-tapped the remote start button, but … nothing.
I never wished dogs could speak more than in this moment, because even after all this, there’s no way anyone would’ve believed me. From this point forward, Halloween would never be Halloween again. It’s the season of the Hellcat.
Photos by Theron Lane