Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up
Who's got 1 thumb and likes to murder? This guy!
I've done some traveling throughout the the US and there have been times where I've thought about picking up a hitchhiker. Sometimes you just want to help someone out or you're so bored you're happy to speak to anyone about anything. I've never done it because you're letting a complete stranger sit very close to you in a confined space. Now while most hitchhikers just need a ride, there can be some that are drug-crazed thrillseekers and thrill-crazed drug seekers. I guess the same could be said for the drivers that pick people up.
Based on the short story by David Schrow, Pick Me Up stars Fairuza Balk (Waterboy, The Craft) as the tough, recently divorced Stacia. Stacia's bus breaks down somewhere in Washington state and decides to walk to civilization while a few passengers decide to hitch a ride with a truck driver named Wheeler (get it?). It turns out Wheeler is a lunatic and he kills both his passengers. A hitchhiker named Walker (GET IT?!?) comes across the broken down bus and kills the driver and remaining passengers. Both Wheeler and Walker catch up to Stacia at a rundown motel and a deranged game of cat and mouse begins. Both want to kill Stacia, but the draw to kill each other is just as strong. Will Stacia be able to survive a psychopathic truck driver and a deranged hitchhiker?
The moment when you realize you should have done Waterboy 2
I can definitely see how Pick Me Up would be a good short story. It has two similar yet different villians, a strong but vulnerable victim/heroine, and plenty of excitement. Unfortunately, it didn't translate well to a movie. Michael Moriarty (Law & Order, Troll) plays Wheeler so over the top you expect to get vertigo every time he speaks. His accent is supposed to be New York, but its closer to Stereotype. Warren Kole is far more tolerable as Wheeler. Fairuza is the saving grace of the movie as she is capable of pulling off strong and terrified without much help from the script. There's a decent amount of blood and violence throughout, but this is one of those stories that suffer from the time constraints of the Masters of Horror series. An extra half hour would have allowed more time to develop characters and action. Hell, it feels like Stacia is barely in the first half of the movie.
There was one particular scene that really bothered me. After meeting and being creeped out by both Walker and Wheeler, we see Stacia walking down the highway and ducking out of the way when she sees a truck coming. In the very next scene, she stops to read a billboard and Wheeler pops out from behind it. That wouldn't be a problem if his truck wasn't parked RIGHT IN FRONT OF IT! And to top that off, she accepts a ride from him, even though he shows her he has a gun. If you know someone is creepy and he has a weapon, why would you ever do anything with that person? It advances the story, but it makes absolutely no sense. Throw in an overdone horror ending, and you're left feeling pretty annoyed.
I got your baggage surcharge right here!
Hitchhiking and giving rides to strangers can be dangerous. There is lots of potential for this type of story and we've seen it down in other movies. Unfortunately, Pick Me Up gets lost in poor acting, not enough horror-style violence, and convoluted scenes. It's certainly not the worst movie I've ever seen, but it had a lot of potential, which makes it that much more disappointing.