The Hitcher Film Details
Overview: A young man who escapes the clutches of a murderous hitchhiker is subsequently stalked by the hitcher and framed for his crimes.
Tagline: Never pick-up a stranger.
Review: The Hitcher is a film with an exceedingly simple premise. A cleancut, All-American boy cruises down the highway when, against his better judgement, stops to pick up a hitchhiker. This hitcher is anything but sane, and holds a knife to the boy’s throat. But he gets the upper hand and tosses the psycho out into the road. But that’s not the end. Its just the beginning. No matter where this lad goes, the hitcher keeps finding him. Torturing him. Tormenting him. As long as you’re prepared to ignore Rutger Hauer’s near-magical ability to appear anywhere in the story, you will enjoy The Hitcher considerably. It all operates on the level of a relentless continuing nightmare. One that refuses to stop. Say what you will about the film’s lapses in logic and enormous plot holes, The Hitcher is one of the finest sustained psycho-thrillers of the 1980s. Directed by Robert Harmon (another excellent filmmaker who just seemed to vanish), he does a superb job plonking us right into the middle of this urban nightmare. Using the desert highways as a backdrop, The Hitcher becomes one long, extended game of cat and mouse. And Harmon’s direction is so fluidic it practically glides. It all begins with a thin sense of normalcy. Then suddenly and without warning the psycho plot takes us right along with it. Harmon doesn’t even allow us the time to catch up. He ensures the plot moves inexorably forwards, with no chance at all of things going back. And there’s a wonderful strain of black humour that underscores the film. The french fry scene is a genuine shocker. And so effective for the way Harmon sets it up. Consider this, C. Thomas Howell is sitting in a restaurant thoroughly exhausted after his encounters with Hauer. The camera lingers on Howell eating french fries while he sits there lost in thought. His hand picks up a human finger that he unknowingly puts to his mouth. Its a scene where the audience is way ahead of its hero, and can only sit there and squirm while Howell is about to eat the thing. Gives a whole new meaning to finger food! An equally squeamish scene comes earlier in the film that is almost Hitchcockian in its audacity. After Howell has booted Hauer out the car, a few minutes later, Howell is driving and sees Hauer in the back seat of another car with a family. Again a scene where the audience (and in this case the hero) is ahead of the characters, this innocent family having unknowingly picked up a psycho, while Howell is frantically trying to warn them. There’s an especially skin-crawling moment when Hauer kisses the little girl sharing the back with him, while her parents are distracted by this nutter trying to pull them over. The scene is capped marvellously a few minutes later when after the other car has headed down the highway, Howell discovers it on the side of the road, with the whole family murdered and Hauer nowhere to be found. Harmon constantly keeps you on a seat-edge of unease. Even when Hauer isn’t around, his presence hovers and lingers over Howell every step of the way. Eric Red, who would pen the equally brilliant backroads epic Near Dark the following year, almost deliberately creates an utterly contrived scenario. Hauer is almost one step ahead of Howell, even when it seems inhumanly possible. The people he turns to for help only think he’s a lunatic, even blaming him for the crimes Hauer has committed. In fact Hauer is given such scant motivation, it all seems like deliberate malice on his part. Howell even flat out asks him at one point, “why me?” To which Hauer responds, “You’re a smart kid. You figure it out!” C Thomas Howell is unremarkable to begin with, but maybe that’s the whole point. Much like Dennis Weaver’s Everyman in the like-minded Steven Spielberg classic Duel, Howell is just this ordinary, average Joe dragged kicking and screaming into this nightmarish tale. Towards the end, his acting shows some impressive modulating. He goes from a slack-ass kid who couldn’t stay awake at the wheel to a determined, sure of himself road warrior. Just listen to the assured click when he cocks a gun at a cop. But really the film belongs to Rutger Hauer. He has seldom had so much fun in a part. He looks like he’s having the time of his life. Its a performance filled with snide sneers and wide-eyed dementia, but Hauer plays it to the hilt. He’s given no chance to redeem himself. He’s a psycho as much at the end of the picture as he is at the beginning. Something he knows all too well. In a minor but effective role is the underrated Jennifer Jason Leigh as Nash, a waitress who becomes the only one who believes in Howell. She adds an additional human face to the nightmare world Harmon has surrounded Howell with. In a really unbearable (and genuinely distressing) scene, Hauer kidnaps Nash, and ties her between a truck and trailer. Hauer is in the cab of the truck, and if his foot slips off the clutch, she’ll be torn in half. Its a gruelling and very well sustained scene that ratchets up the tension superbly. And when Hauer finally carries out his threat, its gut-wrenching and very saddening. It will leave you depressed for hours after the film has ended. The Hitcher is a really quite excellent thriller. Everything about the film works in some way or another. The action scenes are breathless and kinetic. In particular the exploding petrol station and slow-mo police car pileups. And best of all, Harmon never allows things to slow down for too long. I have yet to see the remake, but something tells me Sean Bean can’t play the part of an eye-rolling psycho the way Rutger Hauer can. A minor classic.
Country: United States
Language: English, French
Duration: 97 min
Genre: Action, Thriller
Also known as: Hitcher,To otostop tou tromou,Hitcher, el asesino de la carretera,Stoper,The Hitcher,A Morte Pede Carona,The Hitcher – La lunga strada della paura,Carretera al infierno,Hitcher, der Highway Killer,Hitcher – der Highway Killer,Liftaren,Stopař,Az országút fantomja,Ha-Trempist,Стопаджията,Otostopçu,Haikeren,Autostopowicz,ヒッチャー（1986）,Liftari,På stop med en dræber,L’auto-stoppeur,Terror na Auto-Estrada,Το ωτοστόπ του τρόμου,Hitcher, asesino de la carretera,El caminante,Попутчик,El pasajero de la muerte