The Hitcher (1986) – Throwback Thursday!

Rated R
Thriller
Try pairing with:  Homemade Garden Tomato Sauce

Jen’s Rating:  C

Looking for a throwback Thursday film isn’t always easy.  This was a difficult find.  I’ve never heard of The Hitcher so we thought, why not? Don’t get this 1986 flick confused with the 2007 remake.  The only person I’ve heard of in this film is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who doesn’t even appear until the middle of the movie.

Jim Halsey played by C. Thomas Howell has applied for a job driving cars across the U.S. just so he could for to California. He was finally offered a job driving a car to San Diego little did he know he was in for the drive of his life. On his way he picks up hitchhiker John Ryder played by Rutger Hauer who is absolutely creepy the entire time he is in the car.

It seemed that John was about to murder Jim but then Jim got so freaked out and pushed John out of the car while it was moving in the middle of the desert. Jim continued to drive but needed to stop for gas, which was the wrong idea. John tracked him down like a dog. Once he got away from John again he only to stop for food at a restaurant that was not open yet. Jim met a very nice girl named Nash played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Even though Nash did not know Jim she knew there was something wrong. She asked him a few times if he was on and received no response. So Nash decided to make him feel more comfortable.

Out of nowhere John showed up, again. He had this impeccable tracking ability to track Jim. Throughout the rest of the movie John somehow manages to track Jim down and destroy whatever is going on in the attempt to get Jim to beg John to kill him.

I will not tell you what happens next, you’ll just have to watch. Although the story line is great, I gave The Hitcher a C for 2 reasons; 1) because I just couldn’t get past the filming no matter how much I told myself the movie was an 80’s film. 2) There were so many ways the killer could’ve been caught so it was vey improbable, especially when John murdered everyone in the police department without any injury.  I do recommend watching the movie and NOT the remake first. Keep in mind it is a 1980’s film so it will not be as good of quality as a newer film.

Jeremy’s Rating:  C+

So, we actually decided to watch this for Throwback Thursday out of a lineup of four films that neither Jen or I had seen before.  All were from 2003 or earlier, but after speaking to some family, we were convinced that The Hitcher, the original mind you, was the way to go.  I can’t actually argue with the recommendation because it simply isn’t a bad film, for the time it was actually fairly terrifying.  However, it does not hold up to the thirty-some years that have passed since it originally released.  The one thing that it still does extremely well though, is the creep factor of Rutger Hower’s character John Ryder.  He plays a drifter that main character Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) happens upon while driving a car from Chicago to Los Angeles, who begins to destroy Halsey’s trip, life, and eventually mind.

This is definitely more of a psychological horror film than anything else, and director Robert Harmon does a wonderful job of making you not only feel uncomfortable whenever Ryder is present, but also terrified of what his behavior will yield next.  Halsey finds out very quickly after picking up Ryder that he is not a normal person looking for a lift, and dumps the man out on the road; but this is where his troubles begin.  Ryder begins to stalk Halsey across the various desert highways in the region, slowly but assuredly framing him for the crimes that he himself had committed.  As the film comes to its height, Halsey befriends a young girl named Nash, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who joins him in his quest to be rid of his terrifying stalker.

This film was actually not bad at all, but I couldn’t give it more than an average rating because it just didn’t hold up over the years.  Not only was the quality of the physical film and production value not viable today, it seems that the originals they have used to digitize this feature, just haven’t been taken very good care of.  It also falls into many tropes that would be considered cliché today.  What I can say is that it is a precursor to many films of the same type that have come after it that were also pretty great, such as Breakdown, Duel, and even the remake of this film in the early 2000s.  This is enough to keep it afloat though and if the visual fidelity had been a bit better, this would have definitely been a B or B+.  Definitely check this out if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers or other films of the genre.

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