The Hitchhiker
Region 1 Edition

Starring: Kirstie Alley, Gary Busey, Margot Kidder, Willem Dafoe and Helen Hunt
HBO Video
RRP US$34.98
Available now


The Hitchhiker is a 1980s horror/thriller anthology series, in this instance incorporating ten stories over two discs. Topping and tailing each segment is Page Fletcher as the Hitchhiker himself, a bland deliverer of omens and morals.

Things get off to a bad start with The Last Scene, directed by Paul Verhoeven of Robocop and Starship Troopers fame. But everyone has to start somewhere, I suppose. A first-time director is attempting to film a low-budget thriller using a talentless leading lady. Under pressure from the financier, he refuses to replace her because of his own feelings for the woman. Instead he rehearses with her. However, events from the script begin to take place in reality, and the actress belatedly realises she is being frightened into improving her scenes. As revenge she turns the tables to prove her ability. She really shouldn't have bothered, because her genuine acting is as awful as her 'bad' acting.

Nightshift isn't much better. Margot Kidder of the Superman films plays a cruel and thieving nightshift nurse in an old people's home who gets her comeuppance from an old man who turns out to be a vampire. The Miracle of Alice Kramer is a definite step up in terms of quality, although it still borrows heavy from other sources. A charlatan priest exploits a young woman who bleeds spontaneously from her palms and feet, with predictable consequences. The other tales carry on in a similar dreary vein: Ghost-writer; W.G.O.D.; The Legendary Billy B.; Homebodies; Why Are You Here?; and In The Name Of Love. Why Are You Here? is simply a waste of good film, as nothing of real consequence happens for its duration.

If I had been in the producer's or script editor's chair, the only script I would have considered is Man's Best Friend. A man thrown out by his wife and down on his luck stays at a friend's apartment while he is away. One night he hears a pitiful howling. Venturing outside, he befriends a dog, bringing it inside. When the dog disappears a few times, returning dirty and covered in blood, he realises that the dog is killing his enemies. This he thinks is good, until he begins to hate himself. This is well told and competently filmed so that you have no idea what the twist will be until the conclusion. It's a shame the other scripts weren't replaced with better ones; not even the likes of Willem Dafoe, Kirstie Alley, Helen Hunt or Gary Busey could lift them from the slime.

Aside from the stories themselves, this series was in desperate need of a creepy storyteller with otherworldly qualities. This narrator has no discernible charisma or personality. In all, this is mediocre fair, lacking even a fraction of the class of The Twilight Zone from the fifties or The Outer Limits from the sixties.

Ty Power

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