Looking back and such.
The Hitcher (1987)
Directed by Robert Harmon; written by Eric Red; produced by David Bombyk & Kip Ohman.
The Hitcher is, quite possibly, the worst movie ever made.
I don't even know how to approach it, but here goes. There is a basic plot: C. Thomas Howell plays Jim Halsey, a guy from Chicago taking a rideaway car out to San Diego. Somewhere in the desert he picks up a hitchhiker, John Ryder, played by Rutger Hauer. Now, picking up Rutger Hauer in the desert and giving him a ride seems like a sure ticket to hell, but it's okay, we didn't know that then. Ryder starts playing a little mind torture game with Halsey and threatening him with a knife, so Halsey manages to kick him out of the car and keep driving.
Of course, that's not the end of it. Ryder keeps playing this psychological game of predator and prey with Halsey. The thing is, there's a point to all of this and I can't really figure out what it is. I mean, what's the point here? Is it just nihilism? Is it supposed to be a meditation on the nature of chance and the way violence is inescapable? Is there some sort of homoerotic subtext going on? I'm not really sure what the point is, because it all leads up to a final moment that is neither surprising nor dramatic. What is the damn point of The Hitcher?
The movie is short on gore, but surprisingly long on intensity and pure psychological cruelty. Frankly, the movie loses me (as it did when I saw it in the late eighties) when Jennifer Jason Leigh gets pulled in half by a semi. Ryder has done this as a psychological test; he tells Halsey that if Halsey shoots him in the head, he'll be able to save the girl. But he doesn't. Even when someone's life is in danger, Halsey can't defend himself or anyone else. I guess this is supposed to be a very dramatic test of civilization versus instinct, but it doesn't come off. All I could think was, Look at all of the cops and EMTs and firefighters; no one has an axe to cut her free with? Give me a break, it's a semi. It's going to take him seconds to even get the thing moving, use those seconds!
A major problem here is that C. Thomas Howell is almost aggressively bland and one of the shittiest actors I've ever seen. His reactions are so over-the-top and cartoonish that I can't take him seriously as the character. Rutger Hauer is cool and intense and really looks like he's capable of slow and cold-blooded killing, which is Hauer's stock in trade (I fucking love Rutger Hauer). So the mental contest here is not only one-sided, it goes nowhere. It doesn't help that Ryder seems to be able to bend the laws of space, time and physics to just go in and fuck with Halsey's head.
I don't know, it just... what's the frigging point of this movie? It's not anything. It's just there.
Next time: looks like it might be Mannequin. Oy.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Looking back and such.