The Hitchhiker

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Hitchhiker
"The Hitchhiker uses elements of fantasy to force a confrontation with the greater strangeness of reality." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

If you're not in that cohort yourself - and quite possibly even if you are - the idea of being stuck in a van for a long ride with three teenage girls who are drinking, popping ecstasy and trying to gross each other out about sex they most likely haven't had may not sound like the most appealing prospect. The studied superficiality of girls like this is very wearing, but what is it there for - what horrors does it hide? One of these three - the one who is is being chided for drink driving because "we might die or worse, we might get pulled over" - has a secret that goes beyond the usual agonies of growing up, and she's willing to take what chances she must.

We know the hitchhiker is trouble from the outset. The girls are worried that she might be a serial killer but relax when they see she's a woman - until her awkward behaviour begins to cramp their style. Despite her efforts to adapt, it's clear that she takes life more seriously than they do (it's probably something to do with the corpse we see her walking away from in the opening shot). Our troubled young heroine in anxious to escape this because it might force her to face up to things she doesn't want to think about - but do they, in fact, need each other?

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A simple story that shifts gears very effectively on more than one occasion, The Hitchhiker uses elements of fantasy to force a confrontation with the greater strangeness of reality. Director Adele Vuko handles her actors with confidence and uses the youth of her protagonists to put the audience into a position where we can accept that they don't always see what's coming. The solid performances keep it grounded while the locations, out on the road, suggest that anything might happen.

At its core this is a story about the kind of growing up that not everybody has to do and the way that it can leave people feeling as if they exist in a separate space, in a parallel universe. Its underlying horrors are very real and by the end you may find yourself wishing for all that ear-splitting teenage tomfoolery to return.

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2019
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A group of friends pick up a stranger by the roadside and are disturbed by her behaviour, but all is not what it seems.

Director: Adele Vuko

Year: 2019

Runtime: 13 minutes

Country: Australia

Festivals:

Fantasia 2019

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