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The Hitcher - Special Edition (18)



Review: Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Scene selections; Audio commentary by Robert Harmon and Eric Red; Scene specific commentaries by Robert Harmon, C. Thomas Howell, Edward S. Feldman, Eric Red, Rutger Hauer, Mark Isham, John Seale;
Disc Two: Teaser trailer; Filmographies; 7 screenplay samples (including 2 deleted scenes); Documentary 'The Hitcher - How Do These Movies Get Made?' (39 mins); 2 short movies - 'China Lake' by Robert Harmon (34 mins, with written introduction by Harmon) and 'The Room' by Rutger Hauer (11 mins, with commentary by Hauer).

UPON its release, in 1986, The Hitcher failed to pick up as many cinema-goers as it deserved; yet it has since gone on to achieve cult status on video and DVD, where its cross between action and horror has achieved cult status.

It’s not difficult to see why. This cat-and-mouse thriller, starring former Brat-packer, C Thomas Howell, and Rutger Hauer, is something of a classic; a supremely sinister chiller that sets its stall out from the opening minutes and seldom loosens its grip throughout.

The premise is simple. A young man (Howell), delivering a car across country, picks up a hitchhiker in a bid to keep himself awake. The passenger in question (Hauer) turns out to be a demented mass murderer, who decides to choose Howell as his ‘special victim’; someone he will torment to the verge on insanity, before allowing him to fulfil his agenda - of stopping him.

The two subsequently form a perverse relationship, as Howell at first attempts to get away, before finding himself the chief suspect in the grisly road slayings, and is forced to fight back.

Playing well upon its plausible ‘what if…’ scenario, and making the most of its desolate desert landscapes, The Hitcher works on many levels, not least in its ability to consistently thrill with set pieces and memorable exchanges.

Hauer’s killer is a reprehensible being; a quietly charismatic psychopath whose actions are never explained - a ploy which makes them all the more chilling. His relentless, merciless pursuit of Howell is akin to a predatory cat toying with a wounded bird, such is his desire to humiliate and frustrate him; yet despite the character’s near-supernatural qualities, he also retains a human edge, which makes the prospect of picking up any hitchhiker in future something well worth avoiding.

When asked where he comes from, at one point in the movie, he merely smirks menacingly and whispers, ‘Disneyland’. It is moments such as these that have helped to earn the character a place among cinema’s most memorable psychopaths.

Elsewhere, he descends to ever more unspeakable acts, slaying a family at one stage, before taunting Howell with the finger of one of his victims in a bowl of chips.

The unrelenting nastiness of proceedings is also kept up, with his slaughter of a police station (the dog licking the slit neck of its owner is one of many unpleasantly lasting images), while the heights of his evil are fully-realised in his merciless killing of Howell’s emerging love-interest in one of The Hitcher’s more unwatchable moments.

It is rare that modern horror films refuse to cop out, yet denying its hero the prospect of being able to drive off into the sunset with a new girl in tow is another crucial factor in why the film remains such a memorable experience.

Rather, it ends as hauntingly as it begins, following the final confrontation between Hauer and Howell, in which the former’s grand plan is finally realised, in suitably grandiose style.

If you haven’t had the opportunity of seeing the film as yet, then The Hitcher is well worth picking up.

For those who have already seen it, however, the prospect of owning it on DVD is an opportunity not to be missed.

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