• Hitcher In the Dark (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: February 23rd, 2021.
    Director: Umberto Lenzi
    Cast: Joe Balogh, Josie Bissett, Jason Saucier, Robin Fox
    Year: 1989
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    Hitcher In the Dark – Movie Review:

    Released as The Hitcher 2 in Italy, Umberto Lenzi (credited as Humphrey Humbert) directed this 1989 thriller that begins when a young man named Mark Glazer (Joe Balogh) picks up a pretty blonde hitchhiker from the side of the road. She climbs into his Winnebago and a short time later, he pulls off the road, murders her and takes pictures of her corpse.

    A short time later, Mark arrives at a campground where he spies pretty blonde Daniela (Josie Bissett of Melrose Place) dancing with a group of friends. When she later spies her boyfriend, Kevin (Jason Saucier), kissing another girl she breaks up with him and storms off. Mark sees this, and before you know it she’s in the RV with him. It isn’t long before they’re talking about a picture of a woman that he keeps with him, a women that he loves very much but who isn’t his girlfriend. Soon enough, Daniela has been drugged and finds herself in a fight for her life as Mark proves to have some serious issues, all while Kevin tries to find her before it’s too late.

    Produced by Joe D’Amato and Filmirage, this doesn’t really have much of anything to do with the Rutger Hauer vehicle The Hitcher but it’s a pretty decent thriller regardless. Shot on location in the United States, the film does a pretty good job of setting things up early on to assure that the finale has the appropriate amount of impact. Yeah, the twist as to the identity of the woman in Mark’s photo isn’t difficult to figure out at all, but the story does take a few interesting twists and turns as it unfolds and the acting is better than you might expect it to be. Joe Balogh is just quirky enough to work as the killer, never really going over the top but definitely delivering a bit of intensity when the movie calls for it. Josie Bissett does really solid work here as well, playing her character believably enough so that when we learn that Daniela isn’t just another easy victim for Mark, we can buy it. She’s tougher than she looks!

    Production values aren’t bad at all. A lot of the movie’s running time takes place inside the Winnebago, which isn’t always the most scenic of locations, but Jerry Phillips’ cinematography does a nice job of making these scenes effectively claustrophobic. The score from Carlo Maria Cordio won’t necessarily stand out the way that the best Euro Horror soundtracks do, but it’s pretty solid and it suits the story and action pretty nicely.

    There are a few obvious logics gaps here (why does Mark keep a gun loaded with blanks in his RV?) and the way too long dance scene where Mark first sees Josie is patently ridiculous. There’s also some remarkably dumb dialogue in the film at times. Overall though, this is a grisly little horror picture that works surprisingly well.

    Hitcher In the Dark – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Hitcher In the Dark to Blu-ray an a 50GB disc with the feature given 28GBs of space and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative the transfer is quite nice and shows very good detail. There’s not much in the way of print damage to note, just the odd white speck here and there, and colors are reproduced very nicely. Black levels are solid and skin tones look good, the image if free of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts. All in all, the picture is quite strong.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track provided is in English. Audio quality is just fine, the levels are balanced nicely and the dialogue is always easy to follow and to understand. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras start off with a commentary track from film historians and authors Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger. They begin by discussing the cynical aspects of the film, how it compares to other slasher and psycho killer movies of its era and the film's reputation for being grim. As the track progresses, they cover how the Euro directors decided to get in on the slasher craze and how they would often subvert the formula, details on Lenzi's career in and out of the horror genre and his abilities as a craftsman, how his wife's female perspective may have helped lend this one a different point of view when they worked on the script together, how Lenzi used his daughter as assistant director on the film, the use of sex in Lenzi's movies, details on the main cast members, the way that the Mark character tries to transform the Daniela character, thoughts on the performances and lots more.

    Additionally, the disc includes a ten-minute interview with Umberto Lenzi who speaks about trying to get into the psychology of the killers in this and other films that he made as well as other details of the movie. A trailer for the feature is also included, as are menus and chapter selection.

    The cover art insert is reversible with two different great poster art variations available and this limited edition of 4,000 units, available from Vinegar Syndrome’s website, also comes with a very nice embossed slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr..

    Hitcher In the Dark – The Final Word:

    Hitcher In the Dark is a sleazy and effective piece of horror moviemaking, and it works surprisingly well. Vinegar Syndrome has done a nice job bringing this one to Blu-ray with another one of their typically strong presentations and some nice extras as well.

    Click on the images below for full-sized The Hitcher In the Dark screen caps!