31 Days of Halloween – Day 26 – The Hitcher allegory
The Hitcher (1986) is an allegory, but Roger Ebert gave it zero stars for its efforts. It was “deceased and corrupt” in his opinion. It wasn’t worth anything. I have disagreed with Ebert a few times throughout this movie marathon and I’m afraid I’ll have to do it again. I think this movie doesn’t deserve zero stars, simply for the fact that it got me thinking about something deeper.
Rutger Hauer plays a psychopathic hitchhiker, who kills indiscriminately, but he has a strange relationship with Jim, played by C. Thomas Howell. The Hitcher does everything he can to drive Jim over the edge, including killing his female friend. As if on a quest for suicide (and off his rocker), the hitcher taunts Jim, as if daring him to kill him. The Hitcher wants to die.
Horror movies with a bad guy who is all-evil all-the-time usually represent our darker side and a hero usually is inserted to fight the good fight, in some sort of representation of good versus evil. Jim is not a hero. By the end of the film, he wants to punish the hitcher and get revenge. After Jim’s rescued, the whole thing seems over. The hitcher is placed on a police bus, and the police drive Jim out of town, but he has other ideas. He carjacks a police car to turn around and find the hitcher again, so he can confront him. Why does he do that?
Jim is on a roadtrip from Chicago to California when he encounters the hitcher for the first time. This evil encounter could represent his growth, however painful it is. And it certainly seems painful, if this movie is any example. Jim must be a broken, maladjusted young man. When the police try to call his brother, no one answers. He’s alone. It’s an allegory for growth into adulthood, which is marred by pain or violence.
In one scene, Jim’s female friend is in mortal danger. Jim can’t or won’t save his friend’s life. He is powerless against the hitcher. The evil guy just shakes his head and seems disappointed he won’t act. Why won’t he act? Even when the hitcher grabs Jim’s gun and forces it against his own forehead, Jim can’t (or won’t) pull the trigger, so the hitcher kills his female friend as a result. His innocence goes out the window, which is pretty evident by the end, because by the final frame, Jim is standing in the face of evil and guns down the hitcher. Is he a man? Is he corrupted? Has he changed? I’m not sure, although a lot of those things could be there on some level.
At the beginning of the film, Jim is simply driving to California, and has a smoke along the way. He nods off and a truck almost hits him. Is he out of control? Does he know what he’s doing? Not a chance. At the end of the film, he stands by himself in some sort of solemn peace, and has a smoke, just like at the beginning. Is he out of control? Does he know what he’s doing? Jim would say yes. In fact, he does several times, as he steals a gun and goes to confront the Hitcher. Is he more confident? Delusional? It is interesting how the beginning mirrors the ending of the movie. He crosses over into the same violent world of the hitcher, if the ending is any example, and becomes violently changed.
Jim shares a strange affinity with the hitcher, as if the movie is saying that violence is inside Jim too. The evil follows him everywhere, and the Hitcher frames Jim, putting him in the pants of a criminal. The hitcher framed him in a case of mistaken identity, but I wonder if Jim even knows who he is. This metaphor is stressed later when Jim “loses” his wallet, and has no credibility when talking to the police. He’s lost himself. He has no family. He becomes as anonymous as the hitcher himself. Is he searching for some sort of identity? Yeah, he found something, alright.
In all, this movie is sorta like Joyride (2001) with more metaphor than crap or maybe like Duel (1971) with a person instead of a truck. It’s a strange movie. I can’t quite place it. The violence is sorta endless, and it just goes on and on. I will say that Rutger Hauer plays the creepy guy really well. You can sorta see some differences in Jim by the end and he’s definitely a changed guy, as he overcomes his fear and confronts it head-on. In that way, it’s sorta like Duel, except without the extreme paranoia. The one thing that Duel doesn’t have is the loss of innocence or any connection to teen violence or teens becoming adults, but your guess is as good as mine as to what this movie is really about. That’s why I like it. It ducks all the clichés and has the balls to roll together allegory, violence, and all the stuff you love in a good horror movie.
31. Poltergeist (1982) vs Poltergeist (2015)
30. Blair Witch Project (1999)
29. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
28. The Wicker Man (1973) and The Wicker Man Remake
27. Tales from the Darkside, the Movie (1990)
26. Saw (2004)
25. The Prophecy (1995)
24. The Hills have Eyes (1977)
23. House of the Long Shadows (1983)
22. Creepshow (1982)
21. Phantasm (1979)
20. The Omen (1976) vs Damien: The Omen II
19. We Are Still Here (2015)
18. The Guest
17. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
15. The House that Dripped Blood (1971)
14. Army of Darkness (1992)
13. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
12. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
11. Theater of Blood (1973)
10. House of Wax (1953) vs House of Wax (2005)
9. Hellraiser Inferno (2000)
8. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
7. The Changeling (1980)
6. The Eye (2002)
5. The Hitcher (1986)
4. Paranormal Activity (2007)
3. 28 Days Later (2003)
2. Suspiria (1977)
1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – This review will be published October 31st!