Monday, March 15, 2010

Television Review: THE HITCHHIKER- 'HOMEBODIES' (1987, Carl Schenkel)

Stars: 3.5 of 5.
Running Time: 22 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: James Remar (THE WARRIORS, QUIET COOL, RENT-A-COP), Christopher Collett (THE LANGOLIERS, SLEEPAWAY CAMP). Written by Richard Rothstein and Christopher Leitch (UNIVERSAL SOLDIER).
Best one-liner: "Just pretend it's like TV."

Well, I've got a crowd of people outside my apartment. They've got torches and Frankenstein rakes and they're clamoring for more HITCHHIKER- so I'd better give them what they want. As you've seen in the past, THE HITCHHIKER is a rather mediocre show that happens to have starred most of my favorite actors at one time or another. Today's episode is no exception- it features the acting talents of a gentleman who's known to his friends as... Jamie Remar.

The opening sequence possesses more style than the rest of the entire series combined– kinda RUMBLE FISH meets THE THIRD MAN on the set of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. It's all high-contrast black & white, canted angles, expressionistic props, and deep shadows. I was really hoping that the entire episode would be filmed in this manner, but, alas... I guess it would have been a little too outré for mainstream TV. You definitely get the sense of classic TWILIGHT ZONE episodes like "The Obselete Man."

A whiny Christopher Collett is getting dragged to an appointment with the hangman... James Remar.

James Remar sentences you to watch BOYS ON THE SIDE and hang by the neck until dead.

Of course, it's only a nightmare. Back to reality– Remar and Collett are two ex-cons about to embark on a crime spree. The deck is pretty stacked in this one. Remar is playing the most vile, depraved, innocent-bystander-killing sonofabitch on the planet. Collett is playing the hesistant, sad sack, 'still looking for the childhood I never had' type of pseudo-criminal. That doesn't sit too well with Remar- he wants the kid to be evil as he is. This leads to many situations where Remar puts a gun to the kid's head and snarls. If I had a dollar for every time Remar does this, I would have at least four or five dollars by the end of this episode. And I gotta say that watching THE HITCHHIKER for 22 minutes ain't a bad way to score five bucks. Which is something to keep in mind.

Anyway, before things can get too exciting, our favorite wet blanket- the Hitchhiker himself- gets to add his soggy two cents.

"The ties that bind can be evil..."

Thanks, Hitchhiker. It means a lot.

Regardless- the kill-crazy crime spree begins. Remar blows away a liquor store owner during a robbery, and the two criminals head to a model home to cool their heels.

I would actually go as far as to say that the bulk of this episode is dedicated to allowing Remar to perfect his goofy, terrifying leer.

Unfortunately for our nefarious heroes, the house isn't empty- it's occupied by a creepy, all-American family. Remar springs into action- he kidnaps the kid:


Hey!- That kid is like four years old!

But fair enough, James Remar- this is truly one of your oiliest roles. And that right there just earned this episode an extra star.

One thing leads to another, and its Remar vs. Collett with the fate of the family hanging in the balance. In an attempt to raise the stakes, there are not 1, but 2 cuts to commercial break that end with the two leads tussling and a gun going off, and we don't know who was hit- my God, who was hit?! And you know what? You've just gotta wait until you've watched a few important messages from our sponsors, and then you'll learn the answer.

Just when you're about to give up on the episode, it hits you with a pretty snazzy, semi-predictable twist which may or may not involve mannequins. And, hey- I'm always a sucker for a mannequin-related plot twist.

By the way, James Remar has an earring in this. Sorry I forgot to tell you until now.

Just as we're about to end the episode on a high note– that's right– The Hitchhiker must present his feeble benediction. Would you like some cheese with that whine, Mr. Hitch?

"Jimmy Lee Stoler never had a real family... and he found a home... in his own demented dream."

You know, I mean... we're not expecting Rod Serling. That is safe to say. And the Cryptkeeper is no great dramaturge, but at least he knows how to sling a great pun. Even the ominous voice that opens TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE has a sort of fiendish dignity to it. Whereas The Hitchhiker is just a douche, plain and simple. Maybe I'm being a little rough on the guy, but then again, maybe I'm just doling out some of those grim meathook realities... those harsh pills that we've got to swallow now and again. And I'm not finished with you, Hitchhiker- not by a long shot.

To be continued...

-Sean Gill

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