You may know The Hitcher from its awful 2007 remake with Sean Bean. Unfortunately, I’ve seen that and can never un-see it. Though at least I can still go back to the original which is one of the best “Creepy stranger that just wont leave you alone” movies I’ve seen. The film was written by Eric Red who wrote one of my favorite vampire movies Near Dark (1987) and the underrated werewolf film Bad Moon (1996). The Hitcher combines the road movie with a stalker movie in a nonstop series of suspenseful altercations between good and evil.
Jim Halsey (C. Thomas “Soul Man” Howell) is delivering a car from Chicago to San Diego. Along the way he meets John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) a soft-spoken drifter. Ryder seems normal at first but once he steps in Halsey’s vehicle we realize he leans closer to abnormal. Ryder explains that he got stranded because he murdered the last person he rode with and plans to do the same again. Ryder taunts Jim with a knife until Jim realizes Ryder hasn’t buckled his seat belt and that the door was left ajar. So Jim pushes Ryder out and escapes, or so he thought. From there on out, Ryder finds ways to catch up to Jim and do his dirty business. The Hitcher is a suspenseful game of cat-and mouse across the American southwest that takes some dark twists and turns.
Later, Jim is somehow blamed for one of Ryder’s murders and finds himself on the wrong side of the law. So now he not only has to evade Ryder but the police as well. Along the way Jim meets
Nash (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a waitress who Jim convinces of his innocence. Of course Ryder gets between the two and later gets Nash tied between two trucks and well, let’s just say it’s not pretty.
The Hitcher is a razor-sharp thriller that never lets up. Hauer is undeniably disturbing and Howell is sympathetic enough. The fact that his character Jim is not only pursued by a killer but also the police is what makes this movie. The stakes are so high and always getting higher. It could have just as easily been a film where very little happens but it keeps a good momentum. Although The Hitcher opened to mixed reviews it’s definitely on the better end of films I’ve reviewed for this Shocktober. If anything it’s an invaluable lesson on picking up hitchhikers.
Rutget Hauer explains to C. Thomas Howell why he wont have a career after the 80s.