The Hitcher (1986)

DVD Cover (HBO Studios)
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Overall Rating 70%
Overall Rating
Ranked #2,082
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Connections: The Hitcher

A young man transporting a car to another state is stalked along the road by a cunning and relentless serial killer who eventually frames the driver for a string of murders. Chased by Police and shadowed by the killer, the driver's only help comes from a truck stop waitress. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: May 27, 2006
We all know that you should never pick up a hitchhiker, especially if you're driving down a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. Picking up a hitchhiker is an especially bad idea if you're starring in a thriller (or horror, depending on how you look at it) film, as our hero quickly discovers in tonight's feature presentation.

It all begins when Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) is driving from Chicago to California courtesy of a drive-away car. To be honest, I have no idea what a drive-away car is; perhaps these were something that they had back in the eighties, or perhaps it's just something that we don't have in good old Delaware. Regardless, our hero is driving down a desert road with nobody else around for miles, and then we find out that Jim has a problem: he's tired; no, make that 'extremely tired'. When he sees a hitchhiker on the side of the road, he figures that although his mother warned him to never pick up strangers, having some company along for the ride would probably do a good job of keeping him awake. The man, who we eventually learn is John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), is quite the strange fellow as we quickly discover; he refuses to acknowledge a word that Jim says, and he seems to be off in his own little world.

That changes, however, when Jim sees a car pulled over on the side of the road. He wants to stop and see if he can be of any help, but John reaches his hand over and pushes Jim's leg down on the accelerator, forcing him to speed right on by the roadside car. A small bit of conversation is had (in a scene that has to be one of the most disturbing I've seen in quite some time), and we eventually find out that the reason that John didn't want Jim pulling over is because there's a dead body in that car... and John was the murderer. He plans to do the same thing to Jim, and we have the beginning of a damned fine and underrated film. A fair number of twists pop up, of course; the action isn't confined to the inside of this car for the duration of the film, but instead, we have a classic game of cat-and-mouse. Jennifer Jason Leigh works her way into the plot somehow, but I'll save the how and why for you viewers.

Here we have another film that is slated for a Hollywood remake, and I decided to give the original some attention before said remake hits theaters. I've been wanting to see it for quite some time now, but the reaction to this film is heavily divided; some say that it's the greatest thing since Gone With The Wind, while others claim that it's a step below Uwe Boll's worst disasterpiece. As such, it's remained on my personal "to-see" list, but it's always managed to get bumped down a couple of slots every new release day. I finally gave in and checked it out, and I'm actually pretty disappointed - disappointed that it took me this long to watch it.

What makes this film work is the tension that is built as the movie progresses, and this is only helped by the brilliant performance by Rutger Hauer; the man just screams "Psycho" when you look at him, and there are very few actors out there who have played this type of role as convincingly as Hauer did here. The scene that takes place in the beginning of the film is, as I mentioned, quite disturbing. We don't see any graphic violence or shocking imagery, we merely hear this man tell the hero of the film what he has done and what he plans to do... and that is where Hauer is at his best. You see, through his tone of voice, facial expressions and general screen presence, Hauer comes across as a truly psychotic individual. While C. Thomas Howell gets top billing in this film, you'll quickly discover that Hauer is the one that carries the film from start to finish.

One thing that I heard over and over before renting this was that it could have ended within twenty minutes if Howell's character had just told the police what happened and let them handle it. While I don't want to point out too many plot twists and storyline events, I will say that this claim is complete and utter horse shit. Sure, the character does some stupid things; there's a couple of times that I found myself asking the "Why don't you ______?" questions, but these are few and far between and only apply to minor points in the film. As a whole, the storyline is solid; however, some viewers may be put off by the deliberately unanswered questions that are presented as the storyline unfolds. Personally, I enjoyed this and found that it added a sense of realism to the plot - after all, real life doesn't require a twist "You yelled at my sister's cousin in high school, so now I want revenge" ending.

Give this one some love before the remake hits theaters. I don't want to bash said remake before I even see a trailer for it, but this seems like one of those movies that will be ruined by Hollywood's vision of what makes a thriller work these days. I may be wrong, and truthfully, I hope I am - but I honestly don't see that being the case. 8/10.
thrasher #1: thrasher - added 05/28/2006, 03:55 PM
Loved the flick, but it definitely doesn't need to be remade, it's perfectly fine as is- nothing we have nowadays that we didn't have back in 1986 could help this film, since it has no real need for special effects. If remade, I'd hate to have to be the one to live up to Rutger Hauer, I don't think it can be done. On a last note, loved that french fry part.
bluemeanie #2: bluemeanie - added 01/17/2007, 02:34 PM
Yeah...I am NOT excited about the remake, though I am not usually excited about any remake. I enjoyed the remakes of "The Amityville Horror" and "The Hills Have Eyes" because I did not enjoy the originals. The latter, especially, I thought was very well done, and the teaser trailer for the sequel just looks wicked as hell. As for "The Hitcher", Sophia Bush can't act, and though Sean Bean might be an inspired choice, he comes nowhere close to the same level as Rutger Hauer. I am expecting it to be a complete and utter turd.
QuietMan #3: QuietMan - added 01/21/2007, 12:48 PM
ok I never saw this one but I saw the remake, i liked it. My mother loves this one thought so she made me tell her about it when I came home, according to her it's pretty much the same movie. So it's not like House of Wax where it's different with the same title.
bluemeanie #4: bluemeanie - added 01/24/2007, 06:08 PM
Just saw the remake. Abismal. Terrible, pointless remake. They took all of the originality and all of the creativity of the first film, revamped it for ridiculous 2007 adolescents, and then shit all over it with Sophia Bush. A review to follow of the remake soon. 1/10.
Crispy #5: Crispy - added 01/25/2007, 10:51 AM
Dude, I can't believe you even wasted your time with the remake. This has the same problem as when they remade the Honeymooners last year. You can't replace Jackie Gleason, and you sure as hell can't replace Rutger Hauer.
Dametria #6: Dametria - added 04/24/2007, 08:05 PM
The first one sucked, the remake sucked harder...with better special effects
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