As horror films go, this one is not a complete gore fest, yet it is memorable simply because it is big on suspense, psychological drama and implied horror.
Sometimes what you can't see is more frightening than what you can, and this film uses that psychological device to maximum effect.
The 'Hitcher' of the title is a sinister and shady Rutger Hauer, who will stop viewers in their tracks with his completely psychotic, but utterly compelling characterisation. He is a calm, controlled psychopath, which is very much more disturbing that a typical horror film ghoul.
The story begins when a young man called Jim (C. Thomas Howell) decides to pick up a hitcher, (Rutger Hauer). Within minutes, Jim quickly discovers that the Hitcher is a raving lunatic who wants to chop him into little pieces. Luckily, he manages to throw the Hitcher out the car, but the Hitcher doesn't give up that easily and continues to plague and stalk Jim, drawing him into a series of desperate and dangerous situations, also framing him for various crimes.
The most disturbing concept in this film is the psychological impact that the Hitcher's behaviour is having upon Jim. Rutger Hauer really does play a star turn as the Hitcher, turning in an eerily convincing and unnerving performance. At times, he is so relentlessly nasty, persistent and downright manic that his performance is more than likely to provoke a nervous smile, as he mocks and ridicules Jim's increasing distress. His murderous antics, however, are never anything less than disturbing.
Along the way, Jim receives the help of a young waitress, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who believes in his innocence after the Hitcher frames him for various dastardly deeds. Leigh's character also meets a gruesome end.
The Hitcher's stalking of Jim eventually culminates in a showdown between the two, the outcome of which I won't reveal here.
The entire film plays out beautifully and subtly, and is superbly written and unsettling. The characterisation is superb right across the board, particularly in the case of Rutger Hauer, who is a charismatic and terrifying madman.
This is a fantastic film, not just for horror film enthusiasts, but for anyone who likes a good scare, or a suspenseful plot. It is fast-paced, dramatic, tense and intelligently written, yet reasonably subtle. It must be seen!