Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up

“Pick me Up” prides itself in being both morbid and pleasingly twisted. As if the concept of open roads and total strangers wasn’t uneasy enough, the fact that the writer pinpoints that there can also be psychotic truckers and psychotic hitchhikers works with a great effect. The ego war between both Walker and Wheeler is fascinating to watch as they have almost a competition killing people they come across and taking immense interest in their methods. And then there’s Fairuza Balk. Normally, I’m not one who thinks she’s sexy, but surprisingly, here, watching her walk around in a towel was sexy. She’s unnecessary, but she’s good here.

Cohen’s entry for the horror series essentially has the right idea and the right concept, but is sadly an antecedent and a hint at what could have been done much better. “Pick me up” is a clever, but weak installment about two serial killers on the road. One’s name is Wheeler who picks people up and kills them, and the other is named Walker, a hitchhiker who kills others on the road. Yes, that’s the actual concept, names and all, and yes, I was rolling my eyes as well. “Pick me Up” is never sure if it wants to be a creepy parable or a creepy parody, so we’re pulled in to many directions without ever getting a sense of the story. And while the story is good, I’ve seen this already.

Does anyone remember VH1’s short-lived anthology series “Strange Frequency”? Same story about an old hippy who took to killing people on the road while he ended up picking up a young rocker who also happened to be a serial killer. Yet instead of a young man being tracked by an old man, it was a different generation rocker trying to kill another different generation rocker. Neither stories were told with the exact same focus, but it reflects on “Pick Me Up” that it lacks the originality this series is supposed to be about. And worst of all, while Walker is stalking a victim through the woods he declares “We’ve seen this before. In “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and the remake!” Great, “Pick Me Up” is so cliché, it even makes fun of itself.

If this was an attempt at a self-referential wink then it’s weak because of that, because this episode really is cliché and derivative and we’ve seen so many self-referential horror films before so it’s tired, but if that was an attempt at humor, it’s still pretty damn weak. And when he finally catches her, he declares yet again “Spare me the part on how you’ll do anything.” Hmmm. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s meant as comedy or a self-referential wink. Regardless, “Pick Me Up” shambles along meandering from its bland plot with Fairuza Balk’s character inevitably being snared in to these two men’s ego war for no discernable reason. Why does Walker want her? Doesn’t he kill people who pick him up? And then there’s the climax that takes a twist that’s not only truly dull, but also odd.

Regardless, “Pick Me Up” is yet another miss in a series that has had more misses than actual hits. And, for the record, how the hell does Larry Cohen qualify as a master of horror? This is a guy who directed a fairly good horror film, and two really bad sequels? What’s the deal? I mean, I doubt these rankings aren’t that official, but Carpenter, Landis, and Cohen? One of these things is not like the other… “Pick Me Up” works, but barely, and on its rare occasions, it’s entertaining, but it’s just another miss for “Masters of Horror” with a brutally derivative and cliché entry that is really never sure what to make of itself. Fairuza Balk is sexy here, though.