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The original 1986 film directed by Robert Harmon

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Not overly impressed by this slasher-thriller, but Rutger Hauer was great.

  • Aug 17, 2012
** out of ****

Robert Harmon's "The Hitcher" is a crowd-pleaser slasher movie. The original script that didn't make it to the screen was a lot darker and violent and was therefore scrapped (because darkness and violence is just no good), the suspense isn't too slow-burn for a majority audience so that it's easily accessible, and it'd got a big name in the cast that everyone adores. The producers were convinced that they weren't making a slasher film at all when they were making this movie and rather a thriller, but upon viewing the finished product, I'm not so sure. This feels like a slasher flick. A bland, messy, yet better-than-average slasher flick. And by better-than-average I mean, in the case of the slasher film, better than shit. "The Hitcher" really isn't bad at all. It has more impressive ambitions than most films of its kind, but then again you must remember that it didn't even want to be classified amongst them in the first place.

A young man (Thomas C. Howell) is terrorized by a hitchhiker who turns out to be a serial killer (Rutger Hauer) while delivering a car that he deliberately keeps saying isn't his to a location in San Diego. It starts with him picking up the hitcher and then driving him a little ways, although it doesn't take too long for this fellow to start saying stuff that could come off as disturbing. For instance, he tells his driver that earlier he killed the people in a car that the two see parked on the side of the road when they're still driving into the night. The young man, named Jim, manages to escape the hitcher by throwing him out of the car, left for dead on the side of the road; but of course the bastard follows him around and eventually frames Jim for his crimes. He accomplishes this by switching out their leather jackets at a diner.

The police come at the wrong time and instantly have the wrong man. We know Jim is not the killer, yet the bloody knife is in his jacket pocket. He has virtually nobody to turn to, except for a girl about his age (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that worked at the diner where he stopped. He's able to convince her that he's innocent and together they run from the law. Meanwhile, the hitcher continues to kill all who cross his path, stealing their cars so that he may further be a complete menace to Jim, who understands that there will more than likely be only way out of this hodgepodge.

I'm actually pretty amazed that the experience went by so fast, given how bored I constantly was with the film. It's not a particularly painful or painless watch; it's so heavily flawed that I couldn't really ever say I enjoyed it, but at the same time it's competently made to the point where it is, well, watchable. There is good camerawork (which could be easier appreciated if the DVD wasn't of such bad video quality, if only in the darker scenes), some good gore (although keep in mind, it's far from extreme), and yes, there are a few moments where the thing is actually thrilling. But it's still merely half a thriller as much as it is half a slasher.

On the bright side, Rutger is really good. On the not-so-bright side, I felt he was much underused. The film at least makes an attempt to be tense, but in the end, Rutger brings the best scenes and even those come off as underwhelming. There was nothing worth writing home about in the memorably menacing scenarios department. Plus, Rutger's killer character doesn't get nearly as much screen-time as he deserved; and instead, we're trapped in a story told through the eyes of Howell's "tough" (which translates here to wimp) hero. I do admire that the killer had no motivations behind what he did, since the best villains are often pure evil without any rational explanation, but at the same time these feel like characters that require detailed backstories and characteristics. Instead, the film is left on the side of the road with only its actors, its cinematography, and its laughably weird homoerotic undertones to save it from being a total loss. I say it's still worth seeing; even if it is a huge let down.

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More The Hitcher (1986 movie) reviews
review by . August 03, 2009
The Hitcher is a nail biting thriller filled with homo eroticism that starred C. Thomas Howell stars as Jim Halsey a young man who's driving his brother's car cross country. He makes the mistake of picking up a bored psychopath named John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) who develops an immediate crush for the kid. Jim ditches the nut job at the first chance he gets. But the crazy psycho wont give up on chasing him even if he has to track him down in the middle of the southwestern wastelands.      …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


The original 1986 horror film directed by Robert Harmon starring C. Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer.
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Director: Robert Harmon
Genre: Horror
Release Date: February 21, 1986
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Eric Red
Runtime: 97 minutes
Studio: TriStar Pictures
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