The movie that totally reinforces the old saying that your should never pick up a hichhiker. I am not ashamed to admit that the first time I saw today’s movie, it totally creeped me out. Even now, years later, I still get a chill when I watch this movie, and I know I am not the only one. I know several people that have said that this movie creeps them out, mainly because of Rutger Hauer’s character. So let’s just get right into today’s movie, The Hitcher.
The plot: Jim Halsey is driving a car from Chicago to San Diego when, during a storm, he picks up a hitchhiker in the middle of the Texas desert. Jim tries making small talk with the man, who says his name is John Ryder, but the man does not say much. When they pass another car on the side of the road, Ryder forces Jim’s foot down on the accelerator and explains to Jim that the driver of the car they passed was the last guy that gave him a ride and the reason he was stranded was because Ryder had killed and dismembered him. Jim asks Ryder what he wants and Ryder tells him that he wants Jim to stop him. Ryder then strokes Jim’s face with a switchblade while telling Jim to say “I want to die.” Noticing that the passenger door is ajar and that Ryder isn’t wearing his seatbelt, Jim pushes Ryder out of his car and speeds off. As Jim continues driving the next morning, he is passed by a family’s car and sees Ryder in the back with the family’s children. Catching up to the car, he tries yelling a warning to the parents but is forced off the road when he clips an oncoming bus. Getting back on the road, Jim soon comes across the car and finds the family have all been killed. Finding an abandoned gas station, Jim tries calling the police but finds himself confronted by Ryder. Ryder tosses Jim the keys to his car and then hitches a ride with a truck that pulls up. Jim gets back on the road but is soon struck by the truck, now driven by Ryder. Ryder hits Jim a few more times then veers off into the desert. Jim goes to another gas station but Ryder’s truck bursts out of the garage and crashes into the gas pumps. Ryder then drops a lit cigarette into the pool of gas, causing the station to explode in a fireball, but Jim manages to get away. Jim finds a diner and manages to convince Nash, the waitress opening the diner, to let him use the phone. While he uses the phone and washes the gas off of him, Nash fixes him some food. and continues to open the diner. As Jim is eating, he finds a severed finger among the fries and, realizing that Ryder is in the diner, runs outside only to be arrested by the police. Jim is placed in a cell and manages to fall asleep but when he wakes up from his nap, finds his cell open and the police officers have all been killed. Jim grabs a gun from one of the dead officers and then escapes before more cops arrive. Jim makes it to another gas station, where he manages to take two cops hostage and gets in contact with Captain Esteridge, the officer in charge, and agrees to turn himself in, but Ryder pulls up next to them and shoots the two police officers. Feeling completely discouraged, Jim makes his way to another diner and collapses into a booth. Suddenly Ryder sits down across from him and, after Jim asks him why he is doing this, Ryder responds “You’re a smart boy, figure it out.” Jim hides on a departing bus and seeing Nash on the bus, grabs her and tries convincing her that he is innocent. When the bus is pulled over, Jim goes out to turn himself in but the one of the officer tries to kill Jim in what would look like self defense. Realizing what is happening, Nash uses Jim’s gun to hold the officer’s at bay as she and Jim gets in their patrol car and leave. They are soon set upon by two more patrol cars, who proceed to shoot at them but when Jim slams on his brakes, one of the cops shoots the tires out on the other car, causing them both to wreck. Jim and Nash continue driving but soon are chased by a police helicopter and more squad cars. Suddenly, Ryder shows up and shoots down the helicopter, causing the police cars to wreck as they collide with the wreckage. Jim and Nash make their way to a truck stop, where they manage to get a room. As Jim takes a shower, Ryder shows up and grabs Nash. Jim goes looking for her but he is grabbed by some cops and Captain Esteridge, who tells Jim to come with him. He leads Jim to where Ryder has Nash tied between a semi and a trailer, and is threatening to tear her in half. Esteridge tells Jim to go and try to convince Ryder to stop because if the cops try anything, Ryder will let his foot off the clutch and kill Nash. Ryder gives Jim a gun and tells Jim to kill him but when Jim doesn’t do it, Ryder releases the clutch. The following day, Jim is watching the interrogation of Ryder and tells Esteridge everything he knows. After Ryder is sent on a prison transport, Jim is given a ride by Esteridge but Jim grabs the Captain’s gun and forces him out of the car. Jim goes after the transport only to find that Ryder has already managed to kill his captors and jumps through Jim’s windshield as the bus crashes. Jim manages to run over Ryder and then, after Ryder rises up, shoots him and then leans against the police car as he realizes that it is finally over.
The Hitcher received mixed reviews from the critics, earning a 61% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. When it first came out, it was completely panned by the critics with many of them criticizing the films lighting, the sometimes overblown violence, and s dull script. The film over $7 million at the box office, though one of the producers claimed the lack of box office success was due to the film not showing Nash’s death, as that was the final motivation for Jim to kill Ryder.
I know it isn’t the greatest movie in the world, but I really like this movie. C. Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer both did an outstanding job; Howell with his progression from the naive teenager at the beginning of the film, to the scared and desperate kid in the middle, and finally the vengeance driven vigilante at the end, and Rutger Hauer as the methodical killer that seems to supernaturally know where Jim is at all times. The story was pretty basic and there wasn’t really any added thrills to go with it, but this really didn’t need anything else to be effective. I think the action and pacing did help make this film more suspenseful as there would be a gradual buildup of suspense and then a brief flurry of action before it quickly ends and the suspense starts building up again. A good movie to watch, especially on a stormy night.
Rating: 4 out of 5