The Hitcher (Harmon, 1986)

So you’re driving down a desolate desert road, tired, bored, and itching for some company. You see a lone man on the side of the road sticking his thumb out. You stop, doing a good deed and solving your problem at the same time. But your hitcher turns out to be John Ryder, and as played by Rutger Hauer, he turns out to be the devil himself, a serial killer of almost supernatural skill and timing. He’s a nightmare scenario, a ghost which haunts your every move even when it’s logically impossible. John Ryder slices, shoots, and stabs his way through The Hitcher like no other killer I’ve seen on screen. He comes and goes whenever our good samaritan Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) needs to be reminded what kind of hell he as stumbled into. Ryder relentlessly stalks Jim after the initial pickup, causing countless deaths, vast devastation, and turmoil. But The Hitcher always remains a personal journey into the heart of evil, where an unsuspecting victim gets to feel, understand, and relive time and time again the brutal deeds of a madman, until he becomes one himself. Halsey and Ryder’s relationship is built on the greatest of conflict, but has a hint of respect in there as well, Halsey astonished at Ryder’s ferocity, and Ryder stunned at Halsey’s ability to stay alive, even when everyone, including the cops, wants him dead. The Hitcher thrives on it’s dream like logic, where Ryder maneuvers his way through the mise-en-scene without much semblance of reality, but perfectly ingrained within the story logic being presented. If Ryder is the devil and this is Jim’s own personal everlasting nightmare, then these unsettling, savage encounters make perfect sense. Thrown from car after car, beaten, and burned, Ryder and Jim attempt to outlast each other within the heightened world they both want to destroy (albeit for different reasons), creating a sometimes Bunuelian look at modern day slasher films and the mysteries they can afford when done well. All good deeds don’t go unpunished, and for Jim, his life becomes a wrecking ball named John Ryder.Avoid the horrible remake of this film, which takes every haunting attribute of the original and turns it into a Hollywood gore fest.

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