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The Hitcher – 8

Director – Robert Harmon

Cast – Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey DeMunn, John M. Jackson

Release Year – 1986

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Back when I used to visit http://www.upcominghorrormovies.com daily and read everything Fright Master had to say about everything, I learned of one of his favorite films…a 1986 classic, The Hitcher. We’ve all heard the phrases “don’t pick up hitchhikers” / “don’t talk to strangers” , and these phrases come to life in this piece and in very thrilling fashion. The horror kicks in early on and gives us an extreme cat-and-mouse game throughout the 97 minute experience, resulting in an experience that was just as enjoyable as I expected.

After naively picking up a hitchhiker who happens to be a cunning brutal serial killer, the young Jim Halsey manages to escape the killers grasp and continue his trek from Texas to California Despite his escape Jim’s dealings with the killer are far from over when he learns that the killer has not only framed him for his heinous crimes, but is hot on his trail to continue his torment of the young man.

To avoid confusion, The Hitcher ultimately spawned an unsurprising remake back in 2007, a remake that I did not watch because I had not seen the original, although reviews from others in the community indicate that the remake was not a stinker. I mentioned earlier that the film takes off right away, and that is one of the best selling points for this piece as it gives us one of the best opening sequences known to the horror genre. We are immediately thrown into the sinister plan of the thrilling hitcher, known as John Ryder, and the first 10 minutes make for the best 10 minutes of the film, which proves both good and bad considering the rest of the experience will never be as good as its introduction. Nonetheless, it does not take long before Jim once again comes across John, and from then on out we are thrown into a constantly moving story where Jim tries to rely on police help but learns that John has outsmarted him regarding that, leading Jim to now run from the police in addition to running from John himself. With no one to take his side Jim is forced to place trust is the one person who gave him a chance, a lowly diner girl named Nash(Jennifer Jason Leigh). The addition of the Nash character was useful and thankfully provided well for the story instead of detrimenting from it (as some supporting characters tend to do), although neither her nor Jim did much to outdo the real star of the film, John Ryder. Ryder was incredible in how well calculated and passively maniacal he was, leaving no living person in his path regardless of age, sex, etc., proving to be one of the better serial killers to haunt the genre despite only appearing in one film.

Director Robert Harmon(They) did a fantastic job with this piece and executed the storyline pretty much to its full potential. His great execution is made obvious to the viewer during the film’s infamous opening sequence, and from then on out he managed to keep the tension (and my attention) to high levels throughout most of the film. While the horror did not provide many on-screen kills, the ones that did appear onscreen were shocking and carried heavy weight, however most of the kills we see occur off-screen and after the fact. His execution of the actors was fantastic, with Rutger Hauer(Hobo With A Shotgun, Dracula 3D, The Rite, Batman Begins, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) stealing the show as John Hardy. Hauer’s performance was cold yet completely satisfying thanks to the charismatic yet deadly smirk that constantly appeared on his face, and his mannerisms during the kills sealed the deal in his deliverance of good horror. The surrounding performances were good enough, but none compared to Hauer as he assuredly gave us one of the most cunning serial-killers in horror history despite limited screen time.

Overall, The Hitcher is an awesome and thrilling experience of horror that gives us not only one of the best serial killers of all time but one of the best horror films of the 1980s. The tension is high and good writing and directing execution provided excellent horror and make up for what little faults the film comes with, making for a highly recommended film that I suggest you check out.

Rating: 8/10

  1. April 15, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    This isn one of my favorite movies of all time. Brilliant. Brilliant. Superb. In that order.

    • April 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm

      I agree with you 100%, BRILLIANT.

      • April 16, 2012 at 9:38 am

        This movie is a lot like Silence of the Lambs in that it is so far removed from what many call the Hollywood Formula. Amazing. No one ever reviews or mentions this movie so thanks for this blog. Oh and everyone should show this movie to their teenage kids. That would be the end of hitchhiking!

      • April 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm

        Haha yes this would be a good deterrent to wayward children as the Hitcher IS the perfect boogeyman. I really wish this film would receive more praise, especially given it has already been remade (the only reason to maybe keep good hidden flicks hidden), and hopefully someday this will join the likes of other highly notable 80s horror films regarding public appreciation.

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