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WEIRDO FLICKS: 'The Hitcher'

by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...

'The Hitcher' - 1986, Directed by Robert Harmon

This is another film with a higher budget than my usual selections, and it might even be the best-known thing I've reviewed. That, however, does NOT mean it's any less strange or twisted than the other 'weirdo flicks' posted here.

'The Hitcher' literally feels like a nightmare that won't stop. It has what I could only describe as 'dream logic,' and most of the main characters make several decisions that seem inhuman. It's a film that can't really be called 'horror,' but you may very well be unable to sleep after seeing it.

We begin with Jim Halsey, a young man who is travelling to California for reasons never discussed. He picks up a hitch hiker in the middle of the night, which is the first of his seemingly non-reality-based decisions. The hitch hiker soon turns out to be insane, and Halsey boots him out of the car.

For the remainder of the film, the mysterious hitcher terrorizes Halsey by following him everywhere (even places he couldn't have had any idea Halsey would show up at), killing people, and creating a string of havoc that eventually begins to look like Halsey's fault. Halsey counters by doing several out-of-character things, like pulling guns on cops and stealing cars.

Yes, this is a VERY 80's thriller, and is very stylized, but there seems to be a lot more going on beneath the surface. For one thing, several people seem to think that the hitcher's character doesn't actually exist in reality, but is instead a product of Halsey's mind. Whatever the case, it's an interesting watch, and will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat.

They definitely don't make movies like this anymore.

VHS photo by Toby Hudson.