What a grotty little film this is. Are we’re now just re-releasing every grubby exploitation flick that we think Quentin Tarantino might have been inspired by? This rotten apple of a movie is a bizarre flick to see get a fancy boutique Blu-ray release. Its seedy ethics may have some redeemable qualities. The film is loosely based on the “Co-ed Killer” Edward Kemper, a murderer who’s become more renowned to audiences due to his presence on Netflix’s Mindhunter series. Meanwhile, the film itself makes very clear nods to Psycho (1960) and The Last House on The Left (1972), two vastly different but highly influential texts.
While we don’t expect a film named Hitchhike to Hell to hold the same slick execution as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal pieces, a film like this highlights just how high a level Wes Craven was operating on. As squalid as Last House is, it still made smart commentaries on violence and class, which many other films of its ilk often weren’t bothered with. Hitchhike to Hell seems to purport that there is something to be said about the plight of wayward youths hitchhiking to their doom, but it fails to ever become more than the sum of its parts.
Howard is a mild-mannered delivery driver who when not delivering dry cleaning or working on his models, is murdering troubled young hitchhikers who disrespect their parents. That’s the film. There’s not too much to it. For 88 repetitive minutes, we’re given scene after scene of Harold meeting young hitchhikers and engaging in small talk before losing his mind when they say something mean about their parents. It is shown that Harold’s mother has an uncomfortable hold on Harold’s fractured mind, which has caused a traumatic incident in Harold’s past. Now Harold is doomed to repeat horrific acts to undeserving kids ad nauseam.
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Is there much to get from this movie? Not particularly. As a cheaply made exploitation flick, there’s a lot of poorly constructed sequences acted out broadly by one note actors. The script is littered with bland exposition and the film lacks any real tension. That is until one particularly despicable killing which comes far too late in the running time to really make an impact. All in all the film lacks any cutting edge to make it remarkable.
That said, Arrow have once again done a great job with the disc itself. We get a talking head documentary with Stephen Thrower on the career of the film’s director, Irvin Berwick. Alexandra Heller-Nicholas has kinder things to say about this movie in her included video essay about hitchhiking movies, which aptly name films like this as gutter cinema. Singer Nancy Adams also talks about her musical career; one which has taken her from films such as Disney’s Robin Hood (1973) to films such as this. All this seems a little unfortunate. To have a Blu-ray’s extras to be far more involving than the main feature may not be what the distributors would have wanted.
Hitchhike to Hell is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.