Tanner Smith’s Verdict: Allison Hogue’s HitchhikerNovember 17, 2012
By Tanner Smith
OK, we all know the story. An innocent person drives on an empty road in the middle of the night when along comes a hitchhiker, whom the innocent decides to take a chance on and give the stranger a ride. Only it turns out that this hitchhiker is quite different and may actually be a dangerous stalker. It’s an old campfire story that has also been included in many horror films, in which that element leads to certain doom.
But I don’t think there has been a hitchhiker story quite like this. In this ten-minute short film—aptly titled Hitchhiker — the innocent person may not be so innocent in the first place, the hitchhiker has something more on his mind that you’d like to know about, and there’s a neat, original twist revolving around redemption.
The film, written and directed by Allison Hogue, is set up in the middle of the night. A young woman (Courtney Howard) is out for a drive when she runs out of cigarettes. She comes around a man in a hooded sweatshirt on the side of the road, signaling for a ride. She stops, and asks the hitchhiker (J.D. Cariker) if he might have any cigarettes. He offers a pack for a ride into town. She agrees, and the two are in each other’s uncomfortable company. The hitchhiker asks her ominous questions, such as why she usually wouldn’t pick up a hitchhiker. After an awkward talk, you’d think this would be the moment when danger strikes. And at this point, I have to warn that SPOILER ALERTS are coming! SPOILER ALERTS are coming! Before reading the rest of this review, I ask that you check out Hitchhiker by Allison Hogue on Vimeo (or above) and come back. SPOILER ALERT!
The opening seems like standard stuff for this kind of story (although the soothing spiritual pop music manages to give a sense of ominousness). The reason I’m recommending Hitchhiker is the twist. The woman drops off the hitchhiker at his destination, only to find that that he is pursuing her. When he catches up with her at her house, she finds that a gun-wielding intruder (the late Keith Mulberry) has been waiting for him. It is then that the hitchhiker makes himself known as probably something not of this world, but possibly from the next world.
The characters are not how we expected. For example, the woman could be seen as the innocent that gives the hitchhiker a ride and finds herself in a bizarre situation she didn’t want to be in. But maybe she isn’t so innocent. When we first see her driving, we see someone who is either hiding something or trying to get over something she may have started in her life. Whatever it is has her somewhat bitter and cold. You can feel it in the scene in which she at first refuses to give a ride—she’d rather stop and ask a hitchhiker for cigarettes than give him a ride. That’s really low, if you ask me. Then, there’s the ending, in which she is redeemed and given a second chance. We’re not entirely sure of exactly what it was that she began with before this night—things are left somewhat vague. And also, who is that intruder? Is he a burglar in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or did he have connections to the woman? There’s a lot you can read into this.
Then, there’s the hitchhiker. At first, he seems like he can’t be trusted, but that’s because he’s asking the questions that would put you on edge. The reality is that he’s testing you when he asks those questions. Then, when he chases the woman home and saves her from the intruder, he gives her a Bible and a message saying that she deserves a second chance. And then he leaves, to find someone else to deliver the message to. The hitchhiker is not a madman. He has the motivations of a savior.
Hitchhiker begins as a typical horror film and turns into something more of a spiritual tale than anything else. It’s an effective short film that plays with the seen-before hitchhiker story element, and leaves with something special that you didn’t expect.
Smith’s Verdict: ★★★