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Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up (Television)

Episode 11

Starring Michael Moriarity, Warren Kole, Fairuza Balk

Directed by Larry Cohen

Airdate: January 20, 2006


I was really looking forward to this week’s episode of Showtime’s Masters of Horror. Just the fact that it stars Fairuza Balk, who won my heart years ago as Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch, and Michael Moriarty, the best ADA on any incarnation of Law & Order ever, was enough to get me jazzed. Then I find out Pick Me Up is based on a short story written by The Crow scribe David J. Schow, who also wrote the teleplay, which was enough to make me forget my misgivings regarding director Larry Cohen’s questionable status as a “master of horror.”

This week’s entry centers around two men, Michael Moriarty’s truck driving Wheeler and Warren Kole’s hitchhiking Walker, and one woman caught between them. See, Wheeler is a psycho truck driver who kills any hitchhikers stupid enough to let him pick them up. And Walker is a psycho hitchhiker who kills any drivers stupid enough to pick him up. It sure sounds like a match made in horror heaven, but unfortunately for us viewers, it’s not.

Fairuza plays Stacia, a tough young woman who’s the passenger on a bus that breaks down on the way to Spokane. Instead of hanging around with the few other passengers to wait for help to arrive, she decides to hitchhike 14 or so miles to the nearest hotel … a decision that results in some painfully horrible dialogue between Stacia and another passenger named Birdie (which includes the line, “That bad? So young… so bitter?” when Stacia flashes a switchblade to prove she can handle herself on the road).

After Stacia’s departure, the remainder of the passengers meet up with both Wheeler and Walker, much to their detriment, after which Stacia becomes, for some reason, the target of both bad men. It makes some sense that Wheeler is after her … she’s a hitchhiker. But Walker kills people that pick him up, and Stacia can’t pick him up. She’s a fellow hiker. Maybe it’s because she yells at him. Who knows?

So, there I was watching an episode of Masters of Horror, and yet, there really isn’t any horror involved. Both Moriarty and Kole are stellar in their roles. In fact, the acting from everyone (aside from the lamentable Birdie) is really very good. Moriarty knocks his role right out of the park. But Fairuza’s tough chick isn’t quite so tough, and Wheeler and Walker aren’t so scary. And the story isn’t really all that interesting. I won’t give away the ending — mostly because I’m not so sure I could explain what happens, but Wheeler and Walker get what I suppose they deserve and poor Stacia has one of the worst strings of luck anyone ever had. Ever.

The dialogue is weak throughout (with the exception of one line delivered by the wonderful Wheeler that goes, “Lady, when you’re fishing, the bait doesn’t ask stupid questions”), the story is just plain dull, and the ending falls flat on its face. It’s a shame such good acting was wasted on this truly boring episode. In fact, if it wasn’t for the acting, this wouldn’t be getting any knives at all.


2 out of 5

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Jon Condit