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Author Topic: Hitcher In The Dark / Paura nel buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)  (Read 10138 times)

vigilanteforce

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a review of the film I did in 2004.



Mark (Joe Balogh of BLACK DEMONS), a disturbed young man traveling the Virginia beach coastline, picks up hitchhiking women in his camper. He forces them to take on the role of his dead mother, and if they fail, he tortures and kills them. One day he picks Daniella (Jossie Bisset of MELROSE PLACE in a role she probably wishes to forget) and keeps her tied inside the camper until her boyfriend shows up and the real mayhem begins...

Lenzi's tight, solid script makes HITCHER IN THE DARK a real punch in the face. The plot is original and even generates suspense- especially in the scenes where Balogh nearly gets arrested by the police. The scene in which Balogh carves the word "pig" on a guy's chest is sadistic and recalls the similar scene from LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. The scene where he's about to rape Bisset before her boyfriend's eyes reminds us of HITCH-HIKE. However, the main character in Lenzi's movie is not similar to David Hess. What we have here is a real looser, a weak person (not to mention impotent) who punishes women because of a childhood trauma that was caused by his mother. Childhood trauma was also a murderous motive in Lamberto Bava's A BLADE IN THE DARK but it's a totally different case here- HITCHER IN THE DARK is wrongly categorized as a giallo. Some might accuse Lenzi of being misogynist with the high amount of violence against women and lines such as "You are just a whore like all the others". Exploitation cinema was never supposed to be politically correct though right? Just take a look at movies such as THE NEW YORK RIPPER (prime example of a misogynistic movie), SO SWEET... SO DEAD, HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK and countless more. Apart from being obsessed with his mother (like Peter Bark in BURIAL GROUND), Balogh also happens to be the son of a rich guy who doesn't seem to care a lot for him. All he does is spoiling his son with money, without having any awareness about his murderous activities. Here lies Lenzi's social comment on rich people which adds more depth to the whole plot. Earlier in the film, two policemen set Balogh free when he tells them he's the son of a rich entrepreneur. Another social comment on high-class murderers beyond suspicion. Another strong point of the plot is the weird love/hate relationship between Balogh and Bisset. The scene of Balogh watching a funny trash movie at a drive-in while Bisset and her lover are suffering is also brilliant. The topless contest sequence reminded me of Lenzi's earlier WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK/NIGHTMARE BEACH, another "teenage horror" film. Even with producer Joe D'Amato's happy ending (which Lenzi hates), the plot is still great with it's strong violence, suspense and fast pacing.

Many fans have been trashing HITCHER IN THE DARK because of the acting. To set things straight, Joe Balogh is no David Hess but still manages to capture the role's feeling. Some of his performances could be more convincing but he is a passable lead.  Bisset is very convincing as the helpless victim and it's a shame she refused to do the extra nude scenes that Lenzi wanted.

From the opening aerial shots of the camper, it's obvious that HITCHER IN THE DARK is a stylish film. Lenzi's direction is top-notch and so is Jerry Philips' (?) cinematography. Night exteriors are nicely lit and set the tone for the movie's overall sickness. Lenzi deserves credit for shooting half of the movie inside a camper and managing to make it so interesting. He does a great work with the camper interiors, no matter the limited space he is given. This is obviously not a big-budget film but it doesn't look cheap either.

The slow opening theme has a feeling of melancholy to it which is just suitable. The horror themes that follow are great pieces of unique inspiration. It should be mentioned that some of these music themes were previously used for Filmirage's KILLING BIRDS! (the soundtrack of KILLING BIRDS is out on a double feature CD with the score for CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT)

I just cannot understand why this movie never got the recognition it deserves. I think that this will happen after Lenzi dies, just like it happened with some of Lucio Fulci's works. In my opinion, HITCHER IN THE DARK is a hidden gem that depicts a psycho killer's dark deeds with style.

SOURCE: Shriek Show (US, DVD): The guys at Shriek Show managed to mess things up by adding black bars to a fullscreen master to make it look widescreen. This means that the movie is missing information at the top and bottom of the frame. Otherwise the image quality is great. Anyway, this disc is still a revelation for me because I had been searching for the film for years.
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Jay

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #1 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 17:49 »

You should have asked, Lefteris...  :-X
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vigilanteforce

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #2 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 17:49 »

You mean for a copy? But I didn't know you back then...
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IL COMMISSARIO

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #3 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 20:05 »

Didn't Lenzi do another slasher called WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK? The killer had a motorcycle helmet or something like that. Lenzi used a psuedonym if this is the same movie. VF, what did you think of Lenzi's BLACK DEMONS?
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Jonny

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #4 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 20:09 »

Didn't Lenzi do another slasher called WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK? The killer had a motorcycle helmet or something like that.

Yes, Vigilante mentions it in his review...  ;D
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IL COMMISSARIO

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #5 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 20:11 »

I see it now. I only skimmed over it the first time. Is it worth picking up even with the video tampering?
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vigilanteforce

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #6 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 20:15 »

BLACK DEMONS- I thought it was fun although I bet my ass nobody else would agree. It is certainly not one of Lenzi's greatest and it is not a movie that anybody would revisit often. At least it was a lot better than Filmirage's dreadful production of KILLING BIRDS (aka ZOMBIE 5)! I'd rather see BLACK DEMONS any day rather than Lenzi's GHOSTHOUSE (also a Filmirage production) which managed to make me fall asleep. 

I really liked SPRING BREAK and even bought the great Italian DVD which has English options. If you have a low tolerance for cheese you better stay away from it!

I think HITCHER is the best out of Lenzi's late 80s efforts and recommend it highly although I can't guarantee you are going to like it :-X
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IL COMMISSARIO

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #7 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 20:22 »

I love cheese as much as anybody but I differentiate between good cheese and bad. I didn't like BLACK DEMONS either. It had a lot of potential and even Lenzi is displeased with it. The gore was nice but it's too few and far between for me to warrant another view. VF, do you have the shriek show DVD?

I may get HITCHER IN THE DARK as I'm a big fan of Lenzi. I picked it up and put it back a couple of times after having seen WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK...on television no less. GHOSTHOUSE I saw once. Isn't this the one with the possessed clown doll and a little girl? I remember some very gory killings in this one, too.
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vigilanteforce

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #8 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 20:31 »

I have the Shriek Show DVD and I am very pleased with it. You should give HITCHER a chance, it certainly does not deserve its very bad reputation. As for GHOSTHOUSE, yes you are right. It basically suffers from the same problem that most Filmirage (D'Amato) productions suffer from: kicks off great with really gory killings and then there's nothing going on until the ending!
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IL COMMISSARIO

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #9 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 20:34 »

I think I'll jot it down for a later purchase. Speaking of Filmirage, tried to watch TROLL 2 and could not make it through the first ten minutes. I had heard this was such an unintentionally funny movie but it made my head hurt to try and view it.
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vigilanteforce

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #10 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 20:40 »

Never seen TROLL 2 and I am not sure if I want to. I guess the company's only "acclaimed" effort is STAGEFRIGHT. The rest range from so-so to total crap. HITCHER IN THE DARK is very good though. I just wish Lenzi would have been able to shoot the film's ending the way he wanted it- that would have made the film much stronger.
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IL COMMISSARIO

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #11 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 20:45 »

STAGEFRIGHT is definitely top of the line stuff. David Brandon is an underrated actor. Did you see him in the Montoro produced SHE (1985)?
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Inspector Tanzi

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #12 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 21:37 »

Didn't Lenzi do another slasher called WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK? The killer had a motorcycle helmet or something like that. Lenzi used a psuedonym if this is the same movie. VF, what did you think of Lenzi's BLACK DEMONS?
Is "Welcome to Spring Break" another title for "Nightmare Beach" or is that a different Lenzi film?
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"When I read the book of Mormon, I feel closer to Jesus Christ."

IL COMMISSARIO

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #13 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 21:40 »

Check VFs review.
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vigilanteforce

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Re: Hitcher In The Dark/Paura Nel Buio (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)
« Reply #14 on: 03 Aug 2007 - 21:41 »

I bet Tanzi is preparing to throw shit at NIGHTMARE BEACH :-\
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