The Hitcher (1986)

Article 4995 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-21-2015
Directed by Robert Harmon
Featuring Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Country: USA
What it is: A nightmare

A man driving a car through Texas picks up a hitch-hiker in the hopes that the latter will keep him awake on his drive. When the hitch-hiker proves to be a homicidal maniac, the driver manages to escape, only to find him stalked by the former passenger. When he tries to contact the police, he discovers that he is the one wanted for the string of murders…

Reportedly, some people find this movie fascinating, while others find it merely repellent. I place myself in the earlier category this time; there’s something positively other-worldly about this strange cross between a psycho killer movie and DUEL, and there seem to be some mystic overtones to the story. To me, there’s clearly some sort of bizarre psychic link between the hitch-hiker and the driver here, and this goes a long way towards explaining why I’m willing to buy into a usually unbelievable set of coincidences. That’s why the hitch-hiker knows what the driver is going to do and where he’s going to be, and towards the end I sense that the link starts to run both ways. There is some gore, but most of the really horrific stuff is left to our imagination, which is somehow more effective. Furthermore, it all seems to take place in a world of deserts, truck stops, diners and police stations that doesn’t seem quite real; in some ways, the movie even feels like a western of sorts. All in all, I found the movie harrowing and moody, and much of the horror is less about dying than what an experience like this can do to you on the inside. I found it very effective and very sad.


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