Hollywood Gothique
Film Reviews

Review: The Hitcher (2007)

Well, I’ve seen THE HITCHER remake, so you don’t have to. This is one of those movies that hews so closely to expectations that you really don’t need to see it – just close your eyelids and imagine.

“There’s a killer on the road/
His brain is squirming like a toad.”

It’s essentially the same thing as before, except there are contemporary songs on the soundtrack; the victims have cell phones (which never work, of course), and the chick has a bigger role. The big surprise is that the gender roles have been reversed, with Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton) being the one suspended between the two eighteen wheelers, leaving Grace (Sophia Bush) to put down the bad guy. (As I mentioned in a previous post, these really aren’t spoilers since the film is essentially repeating the events from its predecessor, and the gender switcheroo was given away in some of the pre-release photographs.)

I did want to add one amusing story regarding the original. When THE HITCHER came out in 1986 it earned a little bit of a reputation for being a film that fooled people into thinking they saw more than they did; it was bloody, but most of the violence was off-screen.

I had a friend who championed the film, and he was fond of regaling me with tales of a press screening, where supposedly several critics were seeking shelter in the lobby, unable to stomach the movie, complaining about the unrelenting beatings and stabbings and bludgeonings.

My friend, whom we will call DDV, got a real kick out of mocking these people, pointing out that there were actually few if any beatings stabbings and bludgeonings on screen. Even these most famous horrific moment (the death of the Jennifer Jason Leigh character) took place off-camera).

Now, here’s the good part: DDV, who is gay, insisted that THE HITCHER had a clear gay subtext. John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), the murderous hitcher of the title, kills almost everyone he meets but spares the life of Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell). Why? DDV insisted it was because there was some kind of homo-erotic attraction between the two characters; the whole story was like one long seduction, and presumably the consumation was when Halsey finally shot-gunned Ryder to death at the end, the orgasmic spray or blood symbolizing another kind of bodily fluid.

Okay, maybe that interpretation is a stretch, but if you cherry-pick the right moments in the film, you can build a case for it. DDV tried tod o exactly this when screening the film for me on video one evening. Unfortunately for him, one of the scenes he cherry-picked was a dialogue between Ryder and Halsey over a table in a dinner, where Ryder places pennies on Halsey’s eyes. As the scene approached, DDV kept insisting that, in it, Ryder leans over the table and kisses Halsey.

Well, you can probably guess the punchline to this story. Haivng mocked other viewers for imaging beatings and stabbings that are not actually seen in the film, DDV had ver vividly imagined a kiss that never takes place. Still, though I’m not a fan of the 1986 film, I guess it’s some sort of testament to its power that it can provoke people into imagining so much that was never shown