10,000 Bullets   Exploring the world of Cinema from the Arthouse to the Grindhouse™

Hitcher in The Dark 
Written by: on July 21st, 2010

Theatrical Release Date:
USA, 1989
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writers: Umberto Lenzi (story), Olga Pehar (screenplay)
Cast: Joe Balogh, Josie Bisset, Jason Saucier, Robin Fox, Thomas Mitchell, Fay W. Edwards, Tom Schultheis.

DVD released: June 24th, 2003
Approximate running time: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Shriek Show
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95

Mark (Joe Balogh) is the only son of the billionaire founder of the Glazer hotel empire, he’s 21 and on vacation. Cruising up and down Virginia Beach in his Winnebago and mirrored shades he picks up a young female hitchhiker, drives into the woods and slits her throat with a big knife. Turns out Mark’s nutty as a murderous fruitcake. And when he spies another beautiful girl, Daniela Foster (Josie Bisset), that bears an uncanny resemblance to his long lost mother he can’t help but offer her a ride after she has an argument with her meathead boyfriend Kevin (Jason Saucier). Before long he’s got the poor girl chained up in the back of the camper telling her he never wants her to leave him. Fear not however because Kevin is on the trail of the mirror-shaded, Winnebago-driving nutjob – but will he be able to save Daniela before Mark totally flips out and gets stabby again?

Prolific spaghetti-meister Umberto Lenzi was at the ass-end of his career when he made this one. Lenzi was always happy to work in whatever rip-off exploitation genre was popular at the time and will probably be best remembered for his late 70’s/early 80’s horror flicks such as Eaten Alive and Cannibal Ferox. By the late 80’s however he was working in the USA and had lost his mojo somewhat. This Joe D’Amato produced ‘American giallo’ was a cynical attempt to cash-in on the popularity of Rutger Hauer’s Hitcher that had been released the year before. Albeit this rip-off adding something of a mobile Norman Bates aspect to the story with the mommy-fixated killer traveling the highway for his next victim – a Bates Motel on wheels if you like. The dialog is laughable for the most part – “Who do you think you are Mickey Rourke?” “He looks like a fag to me!” – being a standard example. The score is bloody atrocious; an 80’s generic synth pop ditty that gets played out of ghetto blasters, walkmans and car radios as if it’s a nightmare world where only this piece of music exists! The storyline is ridiculously improbable with a fluke meeting at a wet t-shirt contest representing the pinnacle of it’s implausability. The acting again is just awful with Joe Balogh combining an odd mix of childlike innocence and schizophrenic paranoia to random but unthreatening effect and Josie Bissett giving no indication that she was about to make it big on US TV in Melrose Place (or every indication if you’re feeling cynical).

Combine all of the above and you actually get an unintentionally amusing and sporadically entertaining film believe it or not! In it’s last reel Lenzi even remembers he’s a schlock horror master and lets Mark pull out his knife and do a little skin carving finally – but even this last gasp attempt to make the movie a bit more visceral is somewhat ruined by what looks like a last minute cornball, out of leftfield, tacked on ending. And just to be pedantic, the title doesn’t fit the film at all; there’s only one ill-fated brief appearance of a hitchhiker and the entire thing is set in the blazing beach-side sunlight.

The DVD:

The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen picture looks very good indeed; details are sharp, colors are strong and vivid with good contrast levels and solid blacks. The stereo audio track is clean and clear so unfortunately the awful score comes through loud and strong.

Extras include:

A 10 minute interview with director Umberto Lenzi (in Italian with English subtitles) which is very informative considering it’s short run-time and the interviewers poor attempts to ask questions in broken Italian. Lenzi talks, amongst other things; about casting the film in LA, giving his on-screen killers a human element, his love for this movie despite it’s flaws which in his opinion include the weak sex scenes and the tacked on ending that the studio forced him to shoot (aha!).

Theatrical trailers for My Dear Killer, Lenzi’s Black Demons and the titular Hitcher In The Dark are also included.

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