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.
Its 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
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
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.
Hauers 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 characters 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 cinemas 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 Howells emerging love-interest in one of The Hitchers
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 formers
grand plan is finally realised, in suitably grandiose style.
If you havent 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.