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Experiencing The Hitcher for the first time

While it may be hard to grasp as a horror website, I finally got around to seeing The Hitcher for the first time.

An impulse buys from a charity shop, the 2-disc special edition DVD cost just 50p and has instantly got me waiting and hoping for the reported StudioCanal Blu Ray, that could be on the way this year.

Much in the same way as Mad Max Fury Road, the first 20 minutes goes straight for the jugular and barely allow you to draw breath. The intense performance from Rutger Hauer is all in the eyes, as he terrorises Jim, who picks him up in the middle of nowhere during a storm.

The character is also not on screen as much as you think, and when he’s not on screen (much like Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs), you are waiting for him to return or simply questioning where he is.

The Hitcher also has plenty of queer coding, given the relationship between Ryder and Jim throughout, especially as they are stopped by a man who is part of a road repair team, and Ryder grabs Jim’s crotch to imply they are a couple.

The other most obvious moment is when Jim spits in Ryder’s face after he is apprehended later on, and the Hitcher cleans the spit off his face and licks it. In a post-AIDS world, this is also a very interesting choice, because of the ways this can be interpreted.

Is Jim letting go or ejaculating his fear of his sexuality onto John? Plus the fact he doesn’t sleep with waitress Nash, who becomes an ally, later on, much to her detriment. Nash and Jim’s relationship could be seen as a convenient friendship that prevents Jim from acting on an implied attraction to John Ryder.

We also have multiple scenes of Jim getting changed or showering, which can be read as Robert Harmon wanting us to focus our gaze on him rather than, stereotypically, especially in the 80s, on the female counterpart.

The Hitcher also boasts some outlandish action sequences, including John blowing up a petrol station, the double police car flip and how can we forget the wince-worthy finale?

I find the scariest part of the film is during the opening sequence when Jim and John drive past a beaten-up Beetle on the side of the highway, with the sense that something horrible went down there and then John decides to tell Jim in explicit detail what he did to the driver. Chilling stuff.

I said whilst watching it that the cinematography of The Hitcher is stunning, and given the desolate and empty filming locations, also evoked the same appreciation I had for the Aussie wild boar attack movie Razorback.

I was also aware that this film had a remake during the 2000s recycle period, but it feels like Sean Bean was such a bizarre choice for the titular character. Maybe he played against type?

C. Thomas Howell sadly returned for a non-related sequel in 2003 too, which apparently has a new Hitcher but also the title is ‘The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting’, even though Ryder is killed at the close of the 1986 original.

Conclusively, The Hitcher was well worth the wait, with a performance for the ages for the later Hauer. Now give us that 4K restoration!

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