HITCHER IN THE DARK *** Italy / USA 1989 Dir: Umberto Lenzi. 95 mins

Young, handsome Joe Balogh has a sensible 80’s haircut, sports stylish Ray-Bans, is dependent on Vodka and routinely picks up, drugs and torments girls in his Daddy’s camper van, usually intoning “You’re a whore, just like all the others”. His latest victim is pretty blonde Josie Bissett, who is feistier than most but still winds up handcuffed to a bed, given an unflattering haircut in homage to Balogh’s absentee mom and punched out when another “lovemaking” attempt fails dismally.
Lenzi’s contribution to the psycho-killer cycle is largely a confined two-hander built around the tense dynamic between the comely Bissett and another deluded, impotent, post-Norman Bates mommy’s boy nutter. Balogh, who keeps nekkid pictures of the girls he kills, is arguably a more sympathetic misogynist than the boyfriend character, though both are guilty of objectifying Bissett at various points. It could have been genuinely disturbing, though Lenzi doesn’t have the skill to ramp up the unease and he gets distracted by gratuitous wet T-shirt interludes that dilute the tension. HITCHER ventures into sadistic territory when Balogh carves the word “Pig” into the boyfriend’s chest with a switchblade, though immediately neuters itself with a bizarre confrontation sequence set against a backdrop of a drive-in showing a goofy comedy. Aside from the “Pig” scene, there’s minimal on-screen violence, but a generally seedy ambience garnered from watching the protracted entrapment and abuse of a pretty young woman.

Review by Steven West

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