Splatter Time Fun Fest 2014: The Hitcher (1986)

the hitcher

There are many reasons I’ve never picked up a hitchhiker, this is just one of them!

Written By: Eric Red
Directed By: Robert Harmon

There’s nothing wrong with a good chase horror film, which is what The Hitcher is for the most part. It’s when the film strays from its cat and mouse chase game that it falters the most. I’m speaking mainly of the various detours involving the police. There’s a key moment, a death, that happens late in the film that is a prime example of how the police detract from the proceedings. Instead of worrying about a certain characters fate the attention of the viewer is drawn away to the police and their involvement in what is going down. At no moment in the film do the police add anything that’s necessary to the film. They are fine as trappings in the background, but when entire scenes and the main plot line involves them they drag the film down considerably.

The actual chase itself, the showdown between good and evil, is handled very well by Robert Harmon and company. Rutger Hauer is tremendous as the mysterious villain. His character never gives a reason for his actions and that only helps to add to his character. Meneer Hauer is complemented well by the green performance of C. Thomas Howell. I don’t mean green in terms of his acting ability, rather in the naivety Mr. Howell brings to the character. He never stands up to Meneer Hauer, which is important because he’s not a punk. Jim is a kid, John is a man, and it shows in the two terrific lead performances.

The Hitcher does come down to the battle between world weariness and youthful exuberance. The main theme of the film is that of the world beating us down through the choices we make. A character we come to know is arbitrarily killed because she chose to trust a stranger. The hero of the film loses his innocent outlook on life thanks to the actions of the world weary John beating him down. I was especially impressed with how the theme is contrasted between Jim’s meeting with John and his later meeting with Nash. In both cases someone chooses to trust. Mr. Harmon is playing around with the idea of who we decide to trust and why in those two meetings.

Mr. Harmon’s film is an intense chase film. It’s well-filmed and moves at a brisk pace. I could have done without so much time being spent with the police storyline. That’s the main hole in the road for The Hitcher, and it pops a tire every time it comes up. Still, the main storyline is engaging thematically and from an action horror perspective. It didn’t knock my socks off like I had been hoping for, but The Hitcher is an enjoyable film.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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