STUDIO: New Line
91 Minutes

The Pitch

"It’s The Hitcher with Bishop and Julia’s brother!"

The Humans

Lance Henriksen; Eric Roberts; Brion James

The Nutshell

On a trip through the middle of nowhere, businessman Jack (Lance) encounters an intensely soft-spoken hitchhiker named Adrian (Eric). As Adrian forcibly inserts himself into Jack’s life, both seem to have something to hide, as implied by the radio broadcasts about a Vegas casino robbery and evidence of several brutal murders committed in the area.

Couldn't resist.
I’m sorry, Mr. Henriksen. All the respect in the world, but how could I resist?

The Package

The anamorphic widescreen image isn’t quite bottom rung, but it is as grainy as a camel’s ass. The colors are pretty interesting, though, since Salva had the picture lit as moodily as possible. That doesn’t help much.

Hatchet JOB.
Job. Hatchet job. Goddamn art department interns never do anything right.

By the way, the packaging mentions a Salva commentary, but it ain’t there. Instead, there’s a Dolby track, DTS and stereo. That’s right — three variations on a stereo track, but not the advertised commentary. For thrity bucks. Suh-weet.

The Lowdown

For his second feature, Victor Salva decided to basically re-make The Hitcher, with Eric Roberts in the Rutger Hauer role and Henriksen as an older, wearier version of C Thomas Howell. Except that it’s not that simple and even the first forty minutes doesn’t have the perverse dread that lies all over the first half of The Hitcher.

Lance was told cast accomodations would be ‘sweet’ but he never suspected this.

This is a two man show, and Roberts and Henriksen are just about the best B-movie guys to anchor it. Roberts has that whole ‘creepy and basically evil’ thing while Henriksen represents the other half of the coin with ‘creepy but basically good’. They work well together, and for about twenty minutes in the middle (most of which is in a diner) the movie starts to cook.

But their basic demeanors are the only weapons Salva’s got. He sets things up so that you’ve got two primary characters and two eventual identities. There’s no doubt that there’s an identity for each actor — you just sit there waiting for the reveal, or the twist. Tension: gone. Putting this movie over on an audience is like trying to beat a card counter with a single deck. Anyone who watches will be able to see through every hand.

Lance’s Spongebob audtion plain creeped everyone out, and the starfish role eluded him.

Though there was more plot to unfold, the whole movie for me comes down to one scene, in which Adrian explains the meaning of life to Jack. Eric Roberts is giving it his all, going on about the hole inside of us that we try to fill in different ways (Salva slang) and how everything we do beyond basic survival and perpetuation is just killing time. To cap off the dramatic monologue, Roberts leans in and says that it’s ‘the nature of the beast’. And all I could hear was Ron Howard, piping in with, ‘Hey! That’s the name of the show!’ Thank you, Arrested Development and good night, Victor Salva.

4 out of 10