Hitcher in the Dark‘s plot may make you think at first glance that this might be properly put along side giallo films such as Spasmo (also from director Umberto Lenzi) what with its tale of a rich pud cruising around the Virginia coast picking up ugly 1980s girls and remaking them to look like his ugly Russian mother. But while the story line may scream “artless Psycho rip-off in an RV,” the credits tell a different story and make a strong case for this being lumped in with such landmarks of Lenzi lameness as Black Demons.
Besides sharing Umberto as the director, both movies feature the same writing team of Umberto and Olga Pehar! That’s right! This is the same Olga Pehar who helped pen such scripts as After the Condor, Hunt for the Golden Scorpion and Karate Rock. The clincher though that this is in the same league as Black Demons is the presence of forty watt mega star Joe Balogh.
Joe’s skinny non-presence was last seen jamming to his favorite Macumba tunes in an old slave burial ground down in South America where he was intent on raising a gaggle of Black Demons! Joe, whose chief talent seems to be his slight resemblance to the oldest son on ABC’s sitcom Mr. Belvedere, brings everything from Black Demons (feathered hair, scrawny physical appearance, hideous polo shirts) and then turns it up about ten notches by adding in oversized mirrored sunglasses, a gigantic motor home, and a hilarious potty mouth for his role as hotel heir Mark Glazer.
In addition to his lack of fashion sense and his creepy effeminate bearing, Mark’s problems adjusting to his parents’ breakup have led him straight into Norman Bates territory. Mark’s gimmick is to drive around in an enormous, very conspicuous, and hard to park motor home, pick up women and make them pretend to be his mommy.
Needing to unwind after a tough day of disposing corpses in the swamps, Mark goes to a bar where he refuses to take off his really big mirrored sunglasses and also refuses to talk to some chicks that are hitting on him, prompting this great line: “Who do you think you are? Mickey Rourke?” The girls leave in a huff, while I was left to wonder just who in the hell Mickey Rourke was.
Meanwhile, Daniela and her boyfriend Kevin get into a fight. He gets himself slapped and she walks out on him. Later on, Mark is cruising around in his RV and she asks him for a lift to the bus station. He drugs her and takes her captive and proceeds to give her an extreme make over.
This involves him looking at an 8×10 of his mommy – a middle-aged hag with a helmet haircut – and chopping Daniela’s bottle blonde hair off, coloring it and sculpting it into a wig that’s nastier than you can imagine.
Mark shows his love for his mother through her, the way most of us would, by raping her, taking dirty pictures of her while she was passed out and making her model a red dress that I don’t think even people in the eighties would have worn unless they had a crazed maniac with a mother fixation waving a switch blade in their face and shouting “slut!” and “whore!” at them repeatedly.
Daniela manages to call her sister and tell her that she’s been kidnapped. Kevin is brought in to blow the case wide open and he does this with one of those half-assed investigations you always see in these kind of movies – you know the type – Kevin wanders around until he runs into people that just happen to have the information he needs. He gets his big break at the local water park where he was looking for leads at a wet T-shirt contest. (It’s fun for the whole family at this place because you can see little kids in the background!)
The next thing you know Kevin has solved the case! And by solving the case, I mean that Kevin gets himself captured by the much smaller and more pansy-esque Mark and gets his mouth sliced, the side of his head shot, and the word “pig” carved into his chest. He also closes the case by ending up dead inside a welded shut car trunk at the local junkyard. Mark and Daniela square off for the completely predictable finale.
Hitcher in the Dark is poorly done in typical Lenzi fashion with lots of false suspense (How many times is Mark going to be stopped by the cops?) and a total lack of believability in both the performances of Mark, Kevin, and Daniela as well as the script. (When the cops see the wound left on Mark from where Josie stabbed him with a fork, Mark says, “I scratched myself. I was cleaning my spear.” Your spear? What? Right after you got back from the big woolly mammoth hunt?)
Umberto’s likewise laughable attempts to infuse Mark’s character with deep psychological motivations for his behavior rings just as false. You hate your dad and miss your mother, so you’re out raping women that you make up to be her? And you have a drinking problem? And you torture guys while their girlfriends watch? And you know how to replace a fan belt on a rented RV? And you have a spear?
This is an exercise in mounting tedium and you quickly tire of watching him yell at Daniela inside the RV and watching her half-witted escape attempts. Shriek Show’s DVD features an interview with the clearly delusional Lenzi where you can hear him complain about Josie Bisset’s refusal to do nude scenes, praise Joe Balogh’s work, and claim that this movie would have been a masterpiece if the producer hadn’t made him tack on the ending. It might have been a masterpiece if the producer hadn’t made you tack on anything after the opening credits, Umberto, but that’s about it.
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