The Hitcher - 1986 (Horror
Directed by Robert Harmon
Screenplay by Eric Red
Starring C. Thomas Howell
as Jim Halsey, Rutger Hauer
as John Ryder, and Jennifer Jason Leigh
"My mom told me never to do this..."
If only Jim Halsey had listened to his mother. Late one night, in the pouring rain, he decides to pick up a hitchhiker, John Ryder (Rutger Hauer). Everything seems fine, until Ryder reveals that he cut the legs off the last person who gave him a lift. He pulls out a knife and holds it to Halsey's throat. What does he want? "I want you to stop me."
This is the fantastic opening to one of the freakiest, most disturbing, under-rated movies of all time. A tense, gory cat and mouse chase kicks off, as Halsey is framed for murder and pursued all over the seemingly endless desert by the psychotic Ryder, who seems to be intent on destroying both himself and his prey.
Why You Should Watch/Rent/Buy This:
At first glance it's a standard 80's shocker, but watch this little gem and you will never, ever forget it. There are lots of twists and turns that I simply can't spoil for you, but it features at least 3 gigantic headfucks, and one incredibly nasty scene - you don't see what happens, but the fact that it happens is enough.
It's relentlessly dark and grim without being miserable, and has a really creepy atmosphere. What the hell does Ryder want? Why is he doing this? You can draw your own conclusions at the various hints and clues, because his reasons are kept a mystery, thankfully. We don't need to know why.
It is also one of the few films to feature the legendary Good Rutger Hauer Performance. What happened to him? He is capable of such great work (Blade Runner, Ladyhawke, The Hitcher), yet keeps turning up in dodgy TV movies. This film showcases a superb performance by him, and you can forget what a good actor he really is. Watch this film and see him at his best (along with Blade Runner). Somebody give this man a Travolta-style comeback, at once.
Most Excellent Movie Trivia:
Armin Shimerman (Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Mall, third Ferengi from the left in any Star Trek: The Next Generation episode) pops up as the police interrogator. The link? Shimerman was also Principal Snyder in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series - Rutger Hauer was in the dreadful movie version.
C. Thomas Howell had a guest appearance in a TV series called The Hitchhiker, in 1983.
Sam Elliot was considered for the hitcher role, before they found Hauer.
Jennifer Jason Leigh appeared with Rutger Hauer the previous year in Flesh and Blood, a Paul Verhoeven medieval romp. It also starred Brion James, who was in Blade Runner with Hauer. Both James and Leigh did voices for characters in the Spawn TV series.
C. revealed that he was genuinely scared of Hauer during the filming, but learned a lot from him. About acting, not about how to scare people.
Eric Red was inspired to write the script while listening to Riders on the Storm, by the Doors. He also wrote vampire classic Near Dark, and Blue Steel.