Blu-ray Review: Hitchhike to Hell (1983)

November 23, 2019

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Mild-mannered dry-cleaning delivery man Howard (Robert Gribbin) lives with his mother, enjoys putting together model kits and drinking root beer… and has a propensity for raping (the female ones anyway) and killing hitchhikers that have runaway from home and hate their mommies… an admittedly niche demographic, but Howard is rather successful in his murder biz all the same.

Why does Homicidal Howie commit these awful acts? Simple, his sister ran away from home and caused his mother static… seems solid enough to me! Anyway, who will attempt to stop this nightmare before the bodies pile-up further? Why none other than Russell Johnson (you know, The Professor from Gilligan’s Island) as small-town Police Captain J.W. Shaw. Will Howard escape justice or will his reign of terror continue on?

Everything from the over-the-top acting of leading man Gribbin, to the ridiculously dramatic musical score (courtesy of Perry Daniels), to the cheesy dialog, swirls and bubbles in a witch’s cauldron to create pure exploitation gold!

Speaking of Gribbin, this dude lays down one hell of a performance that goes from dopey innocent to full on rampaging maniac in a heartbeat. This is fantastic material that is delivered sincerely, despite the fact that he’s playin’ for the cheap seats, if ya can pick up what I’m layin’ down. Plus he contrasts nicely with Johnson who plays his role in this nonsense as ultra-serious as he could manage, and he can manage a-fucking-lot.

As for special features on this Arrow Video Blu-ray release we get a nice selection indeed! First up, author Stephen Thrower examines the long and fascinating career of Hitchhike to Hell‘s director Irvin Berwick, followed by a look at the real-life dangers of hitchhiking, as well as it’s history of terror on the screen, courtesy of film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. After that comes an interview with singer Nancy Adams (who provided the film’s theme song, which is also present in it’s original version in the bonus material in two different versions… one audio only, the other set against the film’s opening credits), and the film’s theatrical trailer (presented in two aspect ratios, as is the film itself).

All of that comes in a case featuring artwork by The Twins of Evil, as well as a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Heather Drain.

Hitchhike to Hell is sleazy material done to a turn; filled with all of the violence, naked flesh, squicky family dynamics, and tacky sets connoisseurs of the genre could ask for, mixed with a sprinkle of Psycho by way of the grindhouse!



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