Firstly I just want to say thankyou to James L. Bills, director of the new 80’s inspired slasher film “Hitchhiker Massacre”, for allowing me early access to the film through a screener. I stumbled across the teaser trailer for the film after reviewing another similar slasher called “Babysitter Massacre” (see review). Beautiful young women are being slaughtered on desert highways by a madman. Sally is heading out on the open road (to go somewhere???) when she is unknowingly picked up by a stranger. Will she survive the night? Or will she become just another Hitchhiking victim. The film stars the stunning Ely LaMay, John Barrymore, Allen Perada, Kathryn Cronyn, James Bartholet and Veronica Lavery.
I’m unsure what the estimated budget is here, at a guess I would say somewhere in between $20,000- $100,00 but don’t quote me on that. We all know what to expect from these low-budget slasher flicks. For success they need to deliver on the gore and the girls, a little bit of story goes a long way too. A lot of directors set out to make these very self-aware horror films inspired by everything done in the genre over the last 30 years. The problem a lot of people will find is that everyone’s taste is different and what they draw inspiration from is different. I’m only one guy so don’t take my word as gospel if you are a fan of these types of films, I think they are nearly all worth watching just to help separate the good from the bad or just for your own piece of mind.
Let’s start with one of the awesome homages to Tobe Hooper and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Right off the bat we get a lovely shot of sexy Ely LaMay’s booty in her denim short shorts. Combine her with super cute Katherine Cronyn sporting the cheerleader outfit and stunning Veronica Lavery caught up in a roleplaying situation with her boyfriend, seeing Lavery sporting some hot leather and you think this could work. Sexy girls aspect, check. They all seemed like nice and down to earth girls but does that mean I had the slightest bit of interest into what was happening with their characters?. (let me come back to that). Let’s move along to the fantastic 80’s synth orientated score which reminded me of a couple of my favourite old school film’s “Maniac Cop” and the more recent sleazefest “Gutterballs”. There is nothing better than a great slasher music theme and Hitchhiker had it!
The acting is about what we’ve come to expect. No one is truly horrible but no one does anything overly worth remembering. I thought LaMay had a few decent scenes where her reactions seemed realistic enough. Lavery’s lovely (polish? I’m going to say) accent rings through and that was nice. The rest of the cast just seem to make up the numbers. A lot of the still shots were good, other than framing the actors faces oddly during some of the intense scenes the rest of the camera work was pretty decent. The body parts in the beginning of the film kicked things off with some decent practical effects. Sadly most of the violence seemed to be cut (maybe due to budget), but there was one effective kill involving a cracked head and a lighter.
Before I start with the many things that I personally think are wrong with Hitchhiker Massacre, let me say once again this is just me and everyone looks for and expects something different from these types of films, so keep that in mind. The film opens up with some really rubbish grindhouse style shot footage that I guess was supposed to pay homage to those 70’s films of the same genre, but just felt truly out-of-place and kick started precedings with that amateur hour feel. Unless I’m watching a Tarantino or Rodriguez film I don’t want to see that, plain and simply it looks shit unless it’s done with a lot of money. The audio started out hollow and low in volume but it did get better as the film progressed so that’s not too bad. I already mentioned the zoomed camera work which is just so close to the actors faces that you can’t see anything else in the background, it’s not a good technique and it doesn’t help to set the scene.
Anytime anything remotely decent is about to happen there is a quick cut or a transition to some unimportant establishing shot of a CGI moon or a girl’s head. I’m not kidding the exact same shots are used at least half a dozen times in a short space of time and that’s just a big no-no. I get that sometimes with a limited budget you can’t transition how you want but there has to be a better option than resorting to that. Not to mention we have at least 5 or 6 minutes of worthless establishing shots in the beginning of the film where Sally (LaMay) is just walking through hills and over roads and down dirt paths to get who the hell knows where?? because it’s never really established. I’m sorry I just don’t get the point of that. Why fill up your movie with that when there is so much else you could be doing?. Do we really need to see her walking, then fade, then walking, then fade in what feels like real-time??
So much of the story or should I say lack there of, is focused on a whole bunch of random characters not connected by anything stumbling around the arid landscape of LA. I didn’t even know the protagonist’s name was Sally until about the last 15 minutes of the movie, that’s how much I didn’t care that this thing had lost me right off the bat. It’s not that you really notice the stagnant pacing of the film until about the 4th or 5th scene of pure filler just there to extend the running time. For example a couple having pointless desert sex, someone attempting to investigate something or an overweight big wig camping out in the woods because his wife has apparently taken everything from him takes up about half the film. It becomes quickly evident how plotless this is and let’s be honest most of us don’t need much as far as a base for a slasher film is concerned but you must have something, otherwise what is the point, I’d just watch an FX reel.
I didn’t want to be saying these things about Hitchhiker Massacre but unfortunately I have too. I get that this is low-budget filmmaking and you can’t do everything you want. James cast the gorgeous women, some decent comedy here and there but was just so far off the mark on story, the amount of gore and writing a remotely memorable killer. This is just my opinion and I have to be honest, If James has set out to make a film inspired by the things he loves then that’s all you can do. After watching this what he likes and what I like are probably very different but I also understand I can be harder to please than most (according to my friends and family). It’s not to say that other fans of the genre won’t like this it’s just that I found to many of the essentials missing, Sorry James!
My rating for “Hitchhiker Massacre” is 4/10