Film Review – The Hitcher (1986)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 59%

Directed By – Robert Harmon
Starring – Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey DeMunn, and John M. Jackson

A young man who escaped the clutches of a murderous hitch-hiker is subsequently stalked, framed for the hitcher’s crimes, and has his life made into hell by the same man he escaped.

Shying away from the theater this week, I’m going to be doing some old fashioned movie watching from home, as I’ve just been in a bad state as it is anyways. It’s funny how one drifts towards the television in times of stress, as if to make realty seem less real by subtracting it with fiction. I won’t get into that, but rather get into a film I’ve been trying to sit down and watch ever since I realized I liked 1980s slasher films. That film is The Hitcher.

I think they made a really bad remake a couple years ago with Sean Bean, who was cast only because he is great at dying. Is that a spoiler? I’m sorry, this film has been out for almost three decades now so you’re going to have to deal with that. The film takes place in the asshole of America, the Midwest, in where a hitchhiker is picked up by Thomas C. Howell, who will now be referred to Ponyboy for the rest of this review. That hitchhiker is played by everybody’s favorite android, Rutger Hauer. Hauer immediately tries to thank Ponyboy for picking him up by trying to snuff him out but is unsuccessful as he accidentally falls out of the car. This sets up the theme of the film; “Is Rutger Hauer a ninja ghost?” The answer is a resounding yes. Somehow, Hauer manages to frame Ponyboy for all his previous and occurring crimes which leaves us watching Ponyboy try to get out of it. He meets Jennifer Jason Leigh along the way and we have a soup of 1980’s trivial pursuit questions to make up this movie.

I actually ended up liking the film. Most of this is because of Rutger Hauer. The man is just a screen menace that only Klaus Kinski can top. You want to scare the shit out of your audience without really doing much? Just stick Rutger Hauer’s face on the screen and let everything else fall into place. The mystery and creepiness he brings to his Hitcher character is worth seeing the movie alone. The camera work was surprisingly good for a 1980s slasher film as the slow pans really helped setting the mood. I never thought Ponyboy was a good actor evidenced by his over the top performance in everything he has ever done including this. His character seems to always choose a place to hide that is not open or is full of people who will die sooner than later, which brings me back to the theme…

Rutger Hauer is a ninja.

He manages to be in every single nook and cranny without anybody ever knowing he is there. He could have worked for MI6 but instead he has chosen to walk the roads in the middle of nowhere and stalk people who are just waiting to die anyway. He gets out of every single situation he is in, manages to wipe out a whole police unit and still manage to make it loo like Ponyboy did it, and also slips body parts into french fries with what I’m only going to assume is the magic of Cthulhu. He’s the real deal.

The film has some pretty great action/thrilling scenes like the gas station getaway, police car shootout, and let’s not forget one of the most gruesome off screen deaths to a likable character ever. Seriously, I can’t believe they were allowed to do that. I was shocked. Overall, it’s a pretty great 80s slasher that is highlighted by the one and only Rutger Hauer. I don’t want french fries at a diner ever again.


Suggested Viewing – Joyride (Just cause), Vacancy, Cellular

3 thoughts on “Film Review – The Hitcher (1986)

  1. A fun 80s flick. The other prevailing theory about this film is that it’s another telling of The Flying Dutchman legend, with a real Dutchman (Rutger Hauer) standing in for the ship.

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