Friday, October 17, 2008

HORROR EPICS: The Hitcher

THE HITCHER (1984)
Here’s what will probably be the sleeper hit of these posts, as far as my humble opinion is concerned. Somehow, I never noticed anyone in the cast up until I slid the tape into the trusty ol’ VCR (yes!). But once I saw that fucking Rutger Hauer was the title character, I just knew that there was no way The Hitcher could be anything else but good. In fact, I can quote one of my old movie guides as saying “If you thought The Terminator was too violent, this one will redefine the word for you.” Although there are plenty of movies out there that are more violent than The Terminator, it’s not a bad comparison to make at all. C. Thomas Howell plays Jim Halsey, the California-bound motorist who takes sympathy on the lone figure hitching a ride in the desert on a rainy night, and instantly regrets his decision. What happens from there is every reason why your parents always told you never to pick up hitchhikers in the first place. This particular hitcher has a funny way of showing appreciation for the hospitality—he kills everyone who picks him up. Jim is able to avoid death by shoving the lunatic out of the car, but don’t think for a minute that his ordeal ends there. Instead, it’s an unpleasant game of cat-and-mouse on the desert highway that gets completely out of control. The cops get involved, as does Jennifer Jason Leigh as a truck stop waitress who looks mighty cute with that little Dixie haircut of hers. No one emerges unscathed in this traumatizing tale. Reminiscent of movies like Duel and maybe a little bit of The Hills Have Eyes, and the script does a great job utilizing its sources of inspiration here. The Hitcher is surprisingly intense and evokes that continual sense of dread very well. The suspense starts early and doesn’t let up. C. Thomas Howell is great as the poor kid forced to walk the same path as the deranged killer, when all he was doing was being a nice guy. Rutger Hauer is downright menacing in the antagonist’s role, like a much more violent version of his Roy Batty character in Blade Runner. This movie more than likely languishes in obscurity at your local video store (which is probably why it got remade not too long ago), but you should do yourself a favor and avoid passing it up the next time you’re looking for something to rent. You just might find a new favorite like I did.

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