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“The Hitchhiker”, not to be confused with the big-budget Hollywood remake of the cult ’80s thriller “The Hitcher”, was produced by an independent movie company called The Asylum, who have been responsible for a slew of pictures that numbers, on a slow year, 8 titles a year. Our copycat of a film concerns a man name Jack (Jeff Denton), whose luck with women in the past has soured him entirely on the female species, launching him into a career as a serial killer. When we first meet Jack, he is dispatching of his latest victim; later that night, he is picked up while hitchhiking (hence the justification for the title, one presumes) by four lovely women on their way to Las Vegas for a conference of some sort. (I didn’t really pay attention.)
The women and their handsome hitchhiker don’t get far before the car stalls, forcing them to a roadside motel to wait out the night. To no one’s surprise, a couple of the women turn out to be horndogs, and soon they are comparing the size of Jack’s genitalia and fighting over who will get to bag him first. Although he seems to despise the lusty come ons of his female companions, and prefers the quiet company of married Melinda, Jack does take the other three women up on their offer, and after a night of rough sex, Jack promptly drugs them, shackles them, murders the motel manager, and begins his reign of terror. Eventually his true goal comes to the surface: convert Melinda (Sarah Lieving) over to his side, or kill her trying.
“The Hitchhiker” has some redeeming qualities, most of which is Jeff Denton, an Asylum regular, who is convincing as serial killer Jack. Also worth mentioning is Sarah Lieving, Jack’s would-be victim and, in the parlance of the genre, the Final Girl. That is, she will eventually be Jack’s final victim — or the one person to survive him. Both actors deliver fine performances, which makes their continued presence in Asylum productions somewhat disconcerting. They are too good to keep doing this type of quickie junk movies, but I guess work is work.
Speaking of which, unless you wallow in direct-to-video land, chances are you have never heard of The Asylum, but dollars to donuts you probably ran across one of their movies at Blockbusters, on late-night cable, or on occasion, sold to the Sci Fi Channel as an “original movie”. To be perfectly honest with you, talking about the company that made “The Hitchhiker” is actually a lot more fun than the movie itself. The Asylum makes movies fast, cheap, and if possible, will attempt to link their productions, through deceptive artwork and title, to a current big Hollywood movie. The object is to ride the coattails of that Hollywood movie’s PR budget and trick one or two unsuspecting movie renter into grabbing their titles.
To this end, the Asylum have produced films like “Snakes on a Train” (as a response to the Samuel L. Jackson film “Snakes on a Plane”, of course), “King of the Lost World” in 2005 (Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”), and earlier that year, “H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds”, their version of the Spielberg movie “War of the Worlds”. (Oddly enough, I found the Asylum version to be much better than its big budget counterpart. Go figure.) Obviously you can see where the Asylum is getting their inspiration for their movies.
Taking this even further, they’ve produced “The Da Vinci Treasure”, “Hillside Cannibals”, and “Pirates of Treasure Island”. Besides proffering a similar title to their higher budgeted counterparts, films from the Asylum also sport covers that are dangerously similar to the films they are attempting to ride the coattails of. Most people won’t be tricked into picking up an Asylum title if they have half a brain, or isn’t drunk when they’re movie renting. Then again, there is a reason the Asylum continues to use this deceptive tactic, so they must think it’s working.
But back to “The Hitchhiker”.
For an Asylum production, “The Hitchhiker” is not altogether bad. Director Slawner, who also helmed the company’s “King Kong” knockoff and “Hills Have Eyes” imitator “Hillside Cannibals”, does quite well with the little time and money he was given. The film moves well enough, with plenty of gratuitous sex, violence, and exploitative moments to warrant “The Hitchhiker” a worthwhile look for those interested in the genre. It’s not “The Hitcher” starring Sophia Bush and Sean Bean, but from what I’ve heard, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Leigh Slawner (director) / Jeshua De Horta (screenplay), Lucille Fletcher, Leigh Slawner, Orson Welles (radio script)
CAST: Sarah Lieving … Melinda
Jaci Twiss … ‘Jersey’ Adams
Jeff Denton … Jack
James C. Morris … The Hitchhiker
Shaley Scott … Denise
Jessica Bork … Krista
Sarah Hall … Patty
Alexandra Boylan … Jennifer