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on 31 August 2003
It begins and ends with the lighting of a match, it's not really important but most would say the same thing about this film. It's low budget and lack of any 'credible' stars means it is destined to be repeated in the early hours of the morning when no one gives a damn. This film is important to me.
I never considered that C Thomas Howell's character could be a schitzophrenic, never occured to me in the slightest, but it also meant that I never quite understood why the hitcher was chasing him. This explanation doesn't make sense either because there is a point when the policemen see him in the truckyard and the main character is told he is asking for him so how could it be the same man? This film is all about the thrill of the chase, an agonising traumatic chase where a young man has been singled out. Everywhere he goes the hitcher is there waiting for him, ready to play with his mind some more and severely change the world around him.
The acting is kept to a bare minimum with only Jennifer Jason Leigh getting the change to say more than a sentence which is the amount you feel the others get. This adds to the atmosphere of the surroundings though; the echoing, harsh landscape of the desert seeking to trap its victims and kill. I like this film because it doesn't need any flashy devices to keep your attention. It doesn't try too hard to get your attention either it just keeps doing what it wants and you admire that. You want C Thomas Howell to survive and get the girl and kill the bad guy and be happy forever and ever... not gonna happen. It's short and bittersweet, and as cult films go it isn't as bad as the rest of the world thinks. You just need to remember that when eating a plate of chips, keep your eyes open.
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on 16 April 2007
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!
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on 29 April 2002
This film is a masterpiece, and is almost on par with Spielberg's TV movie DUEL. In both films, someone is being chased by the unexplained, but in the HITCHER we actualy see who is doing the chasing. Rutger Hauer shines through in this performance as the mysterious maniac, and for me is by far his best film (I wasn't too keen on BLADE RUNNER, althoygh he was brilliant in that too). It's a pity that he has sunk to the lower levels of TV movie fame, as he makes a brilliant villain, and it would be a joy to see him back in mainstream cinema. Well, we can only hope.
But this is a review about the film, and not Rutger Hauer. C Thomas Howell (SOULMAN) plays Jim Halsey, travelling across the desert in a delivery car, and happens to pick up a hitcher who has a tendency of killing his benfactors. Halsey escapes, but finds himself pitted against this madman who takes it personal. Get set for one of the most atmospheric, unsettling 'road moives' ever made.
I suppose it is a little inaccurate to label this as a road movie, but THE HITCHER is always compared with other films of the genre. For me, it is DUEL that THE HITCHER is most similar to, but THE HITCHER takes the violence to the extreme, setting up a hefty body count as it progresses.
Like the vampire film NEAR DARK, the film's atmosphere comes from its music, excellently composed by Mark Isham (of BLADE fame). The sense of isolation is superbly brought across to the viewer.
Jennifer Jason Leigh (SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, DELORES CLAIBORNE) also stars, and viewers will want to watch the scene involving her, Rutger Hauer and a truck. Definetly the most riveting scene in the film.
Brilliant from start to finish. I definetly recommend this to fans of road movies and horror alike.
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on 3 February 2004
I must admit i had never heard of this movie until a few months ago, and after hearing many Internet recommendations and that it was a cult film, i decided to buy it.
As you can see by my title i thoroughly enjoyed it and i feel that it would be a great addition to anyones DVD collection. There is certainly a mysticism about the film as The Hitcher is able to do some inplausable things but this all adds to the fun of the movie as we never really know if The Hitcher is another personality of Jim (which many suggest, but i dont go along with) or whether there is some other explanation to some of his feats. Anyway, the story goes as follows:
Jim Halsey, driving to San Diego in a drive away car he is supposed to deliver, nearly crashes due to him falling asleep. He sees a hitchhiker along the road and decides to stop thinking the hitcher could help him stay awake. When Jim opens the car door the first thing he says to the Hitcher is "My Mother told me never to do this" and he is about to find out why. The Hitcher himself seems a very strange person from the moment he gets in the car, and then we find out his real intentions, he is a murdering psychopath who has killed many people and admits that he is going to do the same to Jim. Getting extremely lucky, Jim manages to get the Hitcher out of his car and drive away. What follows is a torturing pursuit as the hitcher makes Jim's life a living hell and relentlesly pursuis him were ever he goes.
With excellent performances by all of the cast and some spectacular stunts along the way The Hitcher is great thrill ride for horror and road movie fans alike. Some of the action scenes are surprisingly spectacular and Hauer excells as the psychopathic Hitcher. I thoroughly recommend this movie to anyone as i cannot imagine any person disliking it to be honest.-
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This is the film that Roger Ebert awarded 0 stars to. It would be true to say it's a film that will divide critics and the audience, however over time the film has become something of a cult classic among fans of the genre.

The Hitcher doesn't pull it's punches, quite a violent film and no shortage of bodies building up over the length of the film. However far fetched the story is (and being honest it's stretching things more than a bit realism wise) I feel we have a compelling, well acted and tight pacey thriller here that holds your attention from start to finish.

Story wise we have Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) driving along in the pouring rain one night, when he sees John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) thumbing for a lift. Taking pity on him (due to the extreme weather) Jim pulls over and picks him up offering him a lift. From the moment Rugter Hauer enters the car you know something is horribly wrong with John Ryder. By a stroke of luck Jim manages to eject John not long into their journey, but his problems have only started, much worse is to come.

The rest of the film storyline is the development of the cat and mouse games between Halsey and Ryder, which unfortunately means quite a few other people end up as victims along the way. Ryder is clearly insane and highly dangerous, but he has for some reason selected Jim, and he has no intentions of killing him..but places him in scenarios which ultimately mean he has to make a choice, we find out later on what John Ryder's real intentions are.

Cast wise C. Thomas Howell makes for a good "scared" Jim, and we have some decent supporting cast performances from Jennifer Jason Leigh (who plays Nash), Jeffrey DeMunn well known for his "cop roles" plays Captain Esteridge well. Gene Davis as a trooper. But it's Rutger Hauer who snatches every bit of printed celluloid and makes it his own dominating the scenes with his creepy, frightening and utterly convincing "psychopath" character, it's the acting role Hauer was made for. Not a hugely well known actor (and a hit and miss acting career in many ways), but he had shown great potential in his prior performance in Blade Runner as "Roy Batty" the replicant leader. Both roles suit his acting style well.

The Hitcher wasn't a big budget production, but manages to capture the distressing nature of events, and with a good opening scene (rain pouring down..dark and moody) Direction is good as is acting, and putting aside the unlikely nature of the story it does make for a pretty exciting and action packed (yet dark and tense) thriller. This 2 disc collection includes commentary and a few short films on the second disc (both are worth a watch)

Years later a re-make was attempted (2007) with Sean Bean playing the Jack Ryder role, but it has none of the impact this film does (Bean is a fine actor, it was just not the role for him) and is completely outclassed by this production.

It's not a film everyone will like, but for those who do it's a white knuckle ride few will forget.
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VINE VOICEon 14 December 2007
A definitive Road Movie which features some impressive stunt work, chases and crashes, as well as a storming performance from Rutger Hauer and some shocking moments and twists. One of the best underrated films of the eighties, and yet another which has suffered a remake.

C.Thomas Howell plays a Jim, young man with the job of driving a car for his company through the desert to California. One ominous, rainy night he sees a hitchhiker at the side of the road, and decides to pick him up. 'My mother told me never to do this' he says jokingly, but it soon becomes clear that the hiker, John Ryder is a little strange. He doesn't talk much and soon becomes violent and sadistic. Jim grows increasingly worried and gets rid of the Hitcher when he gets the chance. This gets his heart pumping, and he drives on. However, later he finds that the Hitcher is following him, and that he is a murderer, getting picked up, killing those in the car, and moving on. He is a serial killer of anyone who picks him up. When Jim sees him in the back of car with a family he tries to warn them but they don't realise. Later he finds their car, empty at the side of the road. Jim reports the deaths, but Ryder makes it look as if Jim is the killer, continually framing him. Jim meets a truck stop waitress, Nash who believes he is innocent and joins him on the road, but Ryder, and the cops are on his tail. Just when Jim thinks he is safe, that the cops believe him, Ryder appears and destroys everything again with an uncanny ability to kill and survive. Eventually he catches up with Jim and Nash, and kidnaps her. The cops come too late, and see that Jim was telling the truth all along. He has Nash in a slightly dangerous position and wants Jim to come with him to save her life. Soon the pair are on the road together in one final fight and chase where Jim becomes more and more violent and unhinged.

The ambiguous ending is a source of much discussion, as are many of the unanswered questions of the film. But we're smart kids, we can figure it out. We do not need to know any motive for murder- does it matter when someone is stalking you relentlessly? This adds to the tension of the chase, and the madness to Ryder's character. The reasons do not matter, it is the fact that we will spend time trying to work it out rather than facing the fact that someone is after us and trying to deal with it. You can search for reasons afterwards, if you must. Reasons are given for comfort, so that we have something concrete to hold on to, but we are not meant to feel any comfort here. It is a nightmare which seems to get worse as it continues, and there seems to be no escape, Hitchcockian in the way the falsely accused man is sought and tries to prove his innocence. In the end this does not matter either- all that matters from the start is what happens between Jim and John. Nash is a tragic figure, showing what can happen to the innocent when they get involved with something evil. A killer of Ryder's nature does not care who gets in his way, by the point where he catches Nash, all he cares about is changing and hurting Jim. Does Jim become like Ryder by the end? Is he redeemed or cursed by getting revenge? This is up to us.

Some of the crashes here rank with The Road Warrior as some of the best ever filmed. They are filmed in such a way to heighten the sense of Ryder's madness and seeming immortality, and to show the growing fear and detachment of Jim. The score is also very subtle, and the dialogue, especially between Jim and John is meant to be ambiguous and give rise to questions-Ryder is looking for a reaction and thought from Jim, as the director is from us. Hauer steals the film, giving arguably his best performance, and it remains one of the best performances in a horror movie. Howell has caused annoyance amongst critics and viewers for his performance, but he portrays the fear, naivety and excitement of a teen going out on his own for the first time. His portrayal of being wrongly accused, trying to escape the cops and Ryder, trying to save others, and eventually becoming solely interested in revenge, is perfect and could not be bettered by any other actor. Leigh as Nash is also strong and we feel sympathy for her as she is drawn deeper into the game, and she offers a softer emotional content than the two increasingly frantic men give. Say what you will of her treatment, but this was the only way Ryder could get what he wanted from Jim. A cult classic which deserves much credit and respect.

The DVD has many good features, a documentary and a couple of interesting short films. Well worth 6 quid, which is the price at the moment. A film which belongs in all movie fan's collections, deserving of praise similar to other giants of the decade such as Raging Bull and Blade Runner.
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VINE VOICEon 26 February 2008
I only saw 'The Hitcher' for the first time last week and I wish I had discovered it sooner. It's a suspenseful, intriguing and (in the best possible way) frustrating masterpiece of the stalker/ slasher genre. When a young man (C. Thomas Howell) stops to offer Rutger Hauer's unhinged drifter a lift, he is drawn into a fateful game of cat and mouse that the audience feels every step of the way.

There's so much to admire about this film. The acting is top notch, with Hauer particularly engaging as he goes straight for the crazy jugular from the off. Howell is also outstanding, superbly conveying an innocent breaking under the mental and physical rigours he is constantly subjected too. There were also several mythical undertones to the film that really gripped me, such as when Hauer places two coins on Howell's eyes, that hinted at a metaphor for life and death. This added to the poignancy of the characters' experience and gave weight to the brilliantly judged understatement of the ending.

Of course, if you just want a good old fashioned thriller, that's right here too! The direction is excellent and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout and the film is shot in a decidedly raw indie style, which adds a certain grimness to the proceedings. The film is also not afraid to show some less palatable moments of horror that are timed to perfection.

Trust me, you'll think twice about ordering chips with your next burger...
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on 7 June 2014
THE MOVIE

This nasty little thriller is one of the most effective psycho thrillers ever made. It also is a cult classic and features one of Rutger Hauer's best performances as the psychopathic hitch hiker. He is one of the most intense and chilling psychopaths in movie history. Also staring C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Armin Shimerman in a cameo.
THE HITCHER, Robert Harmon's directing debut and remains his best movie so far, is a real nail biter. It was written by Eric Red who wrote the script for NEAR DARK and said he was inspired by THE DOORS song "Riders of the Storm". He has a cameo near the end of the film as the cop.
THE HITCHER is by no means a realistic movie. The hitcher is some kind of uber-human and the movie is full of illogical plot holes that serve only to intensify the duel between Howell and Hauer. Whatever it takes to make the movie work, it still is an outstanding psychological thriller.
Even though THE HITCHER is a psychological thriller it still contains a fair amount of bloody violence.

RATING: 10 / 10

THE DVD

Reviewed version: 2008 Optimum Single Disc UK DVD
Feature running time: 94 mins. (uncut)
Rating: R (MPAA) / 18 (BBFC)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Audio: English 5.1, English 2.0 stereo
Subtitles: English
Chapters: 12
Extras: Commentary, Featurette, Theatrical Trailer
Region: 2

Picture: C
Audio: B
Extras: good commentary and an OK featurette
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on 17 March 2006
(See above synopsis)
When I first watched this film, I was terrified by it, and I remember my parents asking if I was feeling ok because I was white as a sheet. So I recently bought this on DVD to see if it held up to the test of time. It truly does. This is an exceptional thriller, incredibly tense and doesn’t reek of the 80’s at all. It could have been made now; such is the cinematography, music etc. All performances are excellent, Hauer playing the killer in a calm, deadpan way that is so eerie, and seeing Howell’s character develop and become stronger (and mildy insane) is fascinating. An absolute classic.
The extras: a new documentary on the making of the film, and 2 excellent short films, the first of which (and 35mins in length) is directed by Harmon and is similar to the Hitcher (and just as beautifully directed), and the other a 10 minute film co directed by Hauer. The ‘deleted scenes’ mentioned are in text format only.
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on 19 February 2007
Quite simply a masterpiece. Every aspect of this film works and the story bits that appear not too, do really and enhance the mystique of this film further. The extras reveal that the writer of this film had little to do with why this film is so good - that credit belongs to Rutger Hauer himself who took the character, and the film, to unexpected heights. Avoid the remake though that may look great, but it really is style over substance and Sean Bean just ain't the man to walk in Rutger's shoes.
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