Sunday, October 24, 2010

31 Days Of Horror Day 24: The Unseen #44: The Hitcher

Why’d I Buy It: Picked it up dirt cheap at one of those post Halloween Rite Aid sales.

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: Fuck... I know… I KNOOOOOWWWW….

How Was It?: Damn good. But you already knew that because you watched the movie a long ass time ago. Good for you.

The American Southwest is a deeply creepy place. Sure the Pacific Northwest may be the serial killer capital of the world, and the South is the cinematic capital of vicious cannibalistic hillbillies. But I’d rather spend time in either of those places, then alone in the Southwest. It’s all open, the light and space gets to your head. There’s an isolation there unlike any I’ve ever experienced. You drive for miles and miles without seeing anyone. Until some cranked out trucker nearly runs you off the road as he does a hundred in his semi on three minutes of sleep trying to make Deluth before nightfall. You make it to a town and find a convenience store, a church, a motel, and one construction site taped off flags flapping in the wind, obviously untouched for years. A strong wind would seem to be able to blow away nearly any town on the map.

Even the tourist spots are creepy. The cliff cities, carved in solid rock their inhabitants long gone. Making you aware of the generations and generations of those who came before you. If any place in America can be said to be truly haunted, it’s the American Southwest.

Which is why it’s always surprised me that so damn few horror films have been set there (Discounting Texas which I for one always consider as part of The South). There’s The Hill’s Have Eyes, Near Dark (oh hey Eric Red) and well that’s about it…

The Hitcher follows C. Thomas “Ponyboy” Howell whose transporting a car to California, when he picks up Rutger Hauer, always a bad idea. Hauer soon informs Howell that the last person who picked him up couldn’t have gotten far as Hauer took the trouble to cut off his legs. And arms. And head.

Things move about as you would expect from there. With Hauer cutting a swatch of carnage across the southwest with no greater scheme then driving Howell to the brink of madness and/or generally fucking up his day.

The key to the whole thing is Rutger Hauer. Who plays the role of the killer as nonchalant to the point of disinterested. When he’s ramming Howell off the road or murdering people he doesn’t do it with the cackling maniacal glee of the normal movie killer, but with the dedicated thoroughness of a committed hobbyist. Even at his most desperate his emotional register never rises above “Slightly peeved” (Not to mention he makes a black duster look goooood. Reason 127 I’m really excited about him in Hobo With A Shotgun.

Murder and Mayhem isn’t something to get excited about, just what he does to unwind. Some people trim their lawn, Ryder leaves fingers in plates of French fries.

The movie does have its problems, while Howell is fine as a scared kid over his head, he’s less convincing as a hardened badass. And though the film is famous for being one of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s first, I found her way over the top, and saddled with a bizarre regionless accent. More problematic is the way the film shifts into an action film in it’s last half. It’s all well done, but after such an intense first half it’s tough to see the movie dissapate it’s tension with helicopter’s blowing up and shotgun battles.

Still over all The Hitcher deserves its status as a minor genre classic.

Now say it with me. I want to die.


J.D. said...

This is a truly unsettling film and has the vibe of a waking nightmare. Where did Ryder come from? What is his motive for donig what he does? Is he just doing this for kicks? Is he sadist? Rutger Hauer plays it perfectly. Charismatic and creepy and this film succeeds based on him and him alone.

Biba Pickles said...

Oh god, did you see the remake a couple of years ago?

The Film Connoisseur said...

Definetly one of my faves. Those first scenes with Howell and Hauer in the rainy night are gripping! I love it when Howell first realizes that Haure is a nutcase and wants him out of the car.

I also enjoy its more action oriented last half, specially that persecution involving the helicopters. It was very well staged.

Dont bother with the remake, it is pure shit every step of the way man!

J.D. said...

Yeah, the remake sucks. Awful, awful stuff. What a waste of Sean Bean...

tentas said...

great film!!!!!!!!!
classic horror
remake it is awful as always

Bryce Wilson said...

@ JD: He's like the slasher Anton Chigurgh.

@ Biba: Never did. Because Fuck Platinum Dunes.

@ FC: Yeah, I enjoyed the second half to. I guess I'm sensitive to it because it's a problem that I have when I try to writ horror.

@ JD: True dat. I like Bean, but he's one of those actors who REALLY needs a strong director.

@ Tentas: Loud and clear.

quizshowbob said...

This movie really bothered me when I first saw it. It bothered me so much that I went to see it 4 days in a row.

Bryce Wilson said...

Ha. That's the best kind of bothered.