The Sunday Cult Film Corner – Road Movie Season! “The Hitcher (1986)”

27 Nov

Damn it’s cold this weekend. Outside, the night has arrived and everything is covered in a thick blanket of God’s icy dandruff. We’re gorging ourselves on hot chocolates and curries to ensure that we have a thick layer of fat around our bodies so should we find ourselves locked outside, or if we fall into Tjörnin lake we won’t die of hypothermia.

To stave off the crushing boredom that surely comes from the long winter nights, over the next few weeks we at the Farm are announcing our special ROAD MOVIE SEASON of films that centre on the delights of travelling on the open road and the vehicles we use to move our flabby arses from point A to B.

To start us off, we’ve got what many regard as the numero Uno of the “Terror on the road” cult movies that always reminds us not to pick up strangers by the roadside. Ladies and gentlemen, i give to you THE HITCHER.

The directorial debut from Robert Harmon (who would go on to make a career from straight to DVD films), the Hitcher is a tense road thriller starring C. Thomas Howell as Jim Halsey, a man driving from Chicago to San Diego to deliver a car. On the way he comes across a hitchhiker (Rutger Hauer) and proceeds to give him a lift. However as soon as they pass a stranded car the Hitchhiker’s personality changes as he tells Ryder he killed the owner fo the car and he will do the same to him. Ryder managers to kick him out of the car, but then undergoes a hellish game of cat and mouse as the hitcher stalks Halsey, killing scores of people and framing him for the crimes.

When the film came out, it received numerous bad reviews stating that it was “diseased and corrupt”, “meaninglessly overblown” and “a nasty piece of homophobic angst for the age of AIDS”. Indeed much has been made of the gay subtext in the Hitcher, in particular the Hitcher’s obsession with following and observing Jim as well as the chemistry in the scenes between Hauer and Howell.

But two things make his film well worth watching. One is the total relentlessness and bleakness of the action. This is not a film that has a nice, easily wrapped up happy ending. Indeed, unlike other “normal guy” action movies, where the regular guy find balls of steel and goes gung-ho, all guns blazing, here the Halsey character seems lost and almost perpetually on the back foot in dealing with his situation. In the end there are no winners here.

The second reason is the character of the Hitcher. Seemingly an avatar for evil, he predates the remorselessness of the likes of Anton Chigurh from “No Country for Old Men” by 25 years. This is down to the superb acting by Rutger Hauer. He displays a menacing laconic charm, exuding a gleeful relish in tormenting his prey. With all those crappy, trashy DVD movies he’s made in the last decade and a bit, it’s easy to forget how powerful an actor he was capable of being when getting the right parts.

So if you want to remind yourself of how good he used to be, as well experiencing some real tense action, then get your hot chocolate warmed up and wrap yourself in a duvet to watch the action…

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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Film


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