24 min., 1989
Written by Jeremy Lipp/Naomi Janzen
Directed by Bruno Cantillon
My rating: ★★★★★
Old time religion meets the oldest profession.
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Joe Pantoliano, better known as Joey Pants, has a long history of playing scumbags. He’s very good at it. Not only does he have the attitude, but he also has the face for it, and the voice. Yet somehow, in this role as Brother Charles, he plays it more subdued than he ever has, and yet he manages to come off as the scummiest of his characters.
You see, Brother Charles is an inner-city preacher, and he offers sanctuary in his rundown church . . . provided, of course, you’re a woman who isn’t too particular about who she lets into her vagina. That’s right, he supports his church based on the prostitution of his flock. It’s all for a good cause. He wants to build the most beautiful, biggest church on the planet, or at least that’s what he’s telling his congregation. They’ll do anything for him.
And then, Alice Ames (Coraly Zahonero) comes to him for aid and succor. Alice is a very special, very naïve girl. She falls for Brother Charles’s line of bullshit right away, and she eagerly offers her sex in order to fund the church. The problem is, when she meets with her first customer, her palms and feet break out into stigmata, and she is rushed to the hospital.
This freaks Brother Charles out, especially when the cops let on that they know what he’s really doing because of this poor, young girl. In an attempt to keep one step ahead of them, he casts Alice out, but very soon he realizes his mistake. Very soon, he realizes he can exploit Alice’s gift for his own purposes.
This is truly a mercenary episode of THE HITCHHIKER. They all are pretty nasty, but usually, they’re morality stories, much like TALES FROM THE CRYPT would be for HBO later. Yet this story plumbs the true depths of depravity. Even today, it comes off as intense and grotesque. How much lower can you be than Brother Charles?
Just you wait until the final scene, where Brother Charles does something so vile and so shocking that HBO might not air it today. There is no morality in that stark ending. All right, this show can be cheesy most of the time, especially with the gritty Shakespeare wanderer we know only as the Hitchhiker, with his dusty jacket, his ever-present backpack, and his slightly jheri curled hair. But this episode sneaks up on you and stabs you in the guts with a crucifixion nail. It is not to be missed.Have You Read...?