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Because I cut off his legs... his arms...and his head...
and I'm going to do the same to you. - John Ryder
I have a very personal relationship with the original THE HITCHER as I owe a lot to it. When I first saw the film as a younger, nose picking, Sears Catalog Lingerie section abusing Arrow, it left a deep mark on me. Consequence; it made me want to explore the screenwriting process and eventually prompted me to start writing scripts of my own.
Moreover, it resulted in me tracking down screenwriter Eric Red when I launched this site for a lengthy interview. We kept in touch after that and became friends while working together on various projects. It goes without saying that I learned Mack-Truck-loads about screenwriting through knowing the lad (I still suck though) and I consider him to be the best writer I've ever met, bar none. Funny how things goes down sometimes. The old saying pops to my mind "Everything happens for a reason". Okay, enough of my shite and on to the film!
The relentlessly paced THE HITCHER was a moody, quasi-existential, action/horror flick that hit notes most efforts of its ilk don't even dare reach or yet alone accomplish. At first glance it might come across as standard serial killer opus, one filled to the brim with mayhem and "burn the envelope" brutality, but for me, I've always gotten more than that out of it! Blame Red's purposefully ambiguous screenplay! The character of John Ryder and his sadistic actions were never given a clear motive, hence could be perceived as so many things! Are they a metaphor for the obstacles we all have to face in life? You know the ones that make us stronger and help shape us into who we are? Or maybe a physical embodiment of the rite of passage that all males go through when they transition from boyhood to manhood? Or is it’s just about a nut-job who wants to die and is training this young pup to kill him already? It was up for grabs! But one thing was for damn sure; I’m always mentally stimulated when I watch this mean-machine.
Now many have stated that the film has homo-erotic tones lodged firmly in its Jock-Strap and that these two dudes just want to bang sillier than monkeys on E. I can see how that can be perceived but with that said, I know for a fact that this was not intentional on the screenplay’s part. The gay vibes are in the house mostly due to Hauer's eccentric choices in terms of his performance (He just had to play with that spit didn’t he?) but hey, if you wanna see it as Brokeback in the desert with phallic guns in tow… go right ahead. Which brings me to Hauer himself. Personally I can't think of a more entrancing, onscreen villain than him as John Ryder. He brought riveting nuances, dangerous charisma and a terrifying mean streak to what could've been, in the hands of a lesser actor, a more “standard” type of psycho character. Hauer played up the mystery of the character and owned the screen like nobody’s whipped bitch! He came across as un-stoppable force, one that could be more than human even though he wasn't. Apart from his stint in Blade Runner it was the best showcase of his career if you ask me or the chopped off finger swimming in my tub of French fries.
Now don't me wrong dudes and dudettes, THE HITCHER was much more than heavy on psychological/symbolism clit teasing, it was a badass, take no prisoners, grab you by the throat and bang your mom, visceral cinematic experience too. The flick shot-gunned fantastic car chase bits and down n dirty, machismo heavy gun-stuff my way and I relished every second of it! CHAOS in motion baby! CHAOS! The same went horror wise with the theme of being “alone” against an evil entity, moments of inventive (yet suggested) brutality and all kinds of tension whip-lashing hard. And the cherry on top was that all that genre loving was communicated with action. I have to admire a film that pulls off relying on physical get-downs to tell its story without sacrificing character development/arc in the process. There was hardly any dialogue in this film (what was there was damn clever though) and it rarely let up, but the characters and their growth were still very prominent! It’s called getting your whore and eating her too!
Finally, add to ALL THAT one heck of a left field kill, a “true to its audience” male/female courtship that ducked the clichés, sumptuous photography (flick made me want to live in the desert) and an atmospheric score that backed up the imagery perfectly and you get a Grade-A horror/action/ thriller. Well to me anyways, and at the end of the road rage, that's all I need. Does it show this is one of my fav films of all time? IT SHOULD! Let’s hitch a ride with THE HITCHER…straight to hell!
The eerie and eclectic score by Mark Isham played a strong part in the film's impact. Far from typical, it powerfully accentuated the "off kilter" nature of the story and the Ryder/Halsey relationship while backing up the action like a champ.