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C. Thomas Howell in THE HITCHER (Rent it)

Old 03-12-00, 02:55 PM
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I've written a couple reviews for the site, and have received some nice feedback on them. I really appreciate that. And I'd just like to let everyone know that I've joined the DVD Talk DVD Review Panel. In fact, the High Sheriff is sending me some flicks to peruse ... so, in the weeks ahead, look for my take on: Blood, Guts, Bullets & Octane; Razor Blade Smile; Oxygen and Stealth Fighter.



By G. Noel Gross
with apologies to Joe Bob Briggs

THE HITCHER (1986, 98 minutes) -- Rent it -- When I think of C. Thomas Howell ... I immediately think of Steve Miner's wacky affirmative action picture, Soul Man. It must be on Comedy Central at least twice a day. It's darn near inescapable. Anyway, the same year Howell would do the movie we'd be tortured with for years to come, he also did an edgy little horror film called The Hitcher. But, to be honest, he's the least interesting thing in the goldang movie. Rutger Hauer (Bladerunner, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is the REAL star as the homicidal maniac hitchhiker, with a death wish, named John Ryder. Get it? R-I-D-E-R. After that collective groan ... let's get to the flick.

The movie: Howell is this total weenie, Jim Halsey, from Chicago driving cross country on his way to San Diego, when he tries to break up the monotony of the open road by picking up a hitchhiker. Something his mother (and mine) warned him against ever doing. Turns out mom knew best, cuz Ryder starts babbling about the fella he just dismembered and squishie eyeballs and stuff. Halsey manages to dispose of his unwanted passenger, but the hitcher takes a real shine to the boy and commences high speed stalking. He offs a bunch of folks along the way. Including a family in a station wagon. Halsey gets more and more freaked out, but he's in West Texas and there ain't no one but jack rabbits to whine to about it. And anyone he MIGHT have told Ryder gets to first. Except for Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Nash) who makes a mean hamburger and fries. But before Halsey can say much, the police arrest HIM for the highway murders. Shazam! And to fully develop the "cat and mouse" plot, Ryder kills all the jailers and essentially busts the kid out of the joint. Through amazing luck, Nash and Halsey meet up again, and she buys the fact he isn't the REAL killer. Then the Texas Rangers get involved and car chases break out. It all leads up to Nash being strung between a tractor trailer and semi by Ryder, who threatens to gun it if Halsey doesn't shoot HIM in the brainpan. Huh? Oh, wait, he's crazy. I forgot. You'll have to see for yourself how that works out. But my favorite part is when the Hitcher catches his last ride by jumping, from a moving bus, head first through the windshield of a pursuing truck. Then there's the more or less man-o y man-o conclusion. Pretty dang satisfying.

Notables: 18 dead bodies. Loogie hocking. Exploding gas station. Gratuitous dream sequence. Finger rolls. Puking. Shotgun fu. Blood licking. Multiple high speed chases with crash and burn. Helicopter fu. Advanced hitchhiking.

Quotables: Not much really, but Rutger Hauer (as Ryder) asks a couple of great rhetorical questions, "Do you want to know what happens to an eyeball when it gets punctured? You got any idea how much blood jets out of a guy's neck when his throat's been slit?" Um, sure, buddy.

Time codes: C. Thomas Howell emotes (8:55). Hey, you'll need more than ketchup to choke THAT down (29:58). The Hitcher guns down a copter with five rounds and causes a real insurance nightmare (1:05:30). Everyone's favorite tug-a-starlet scene (1:17:00). Ryder catches a ride, the hard way (1:29:00).

Audio/Video: For the first 20 minutes of the movie, I would have sworn I was watching it through the screen door of my grandpa's lake house. A real mess during the nighttime opening. It clears up, more or less, later on. In fact, some of the widescreen vistas (2.35:1) are downright purty. There are two audio tracks: Dolby 5.1 and Dolby surround.

Extras: Cast bios. Trailer. Animated menu. Please, try to contain your excitement. I do like the subtle touch of placing the scene selections in rear-view mirrors, though.

Final thought: Pretty good flick. Shades of Duel. Rutger Hauer is damned convincing. And there are some genuinely suspenseful moments. Noel Bob says, "Check it out."

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[This message has been edited by noelgross (edited March 16, 2000).]
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Old 03-12-00, 03:38 PM
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noelgross, it couldn’t last. Great review (as always), wrong rating though - this movie is essential Hauer, he was really on a run here with this, Blade Runner, Nighthawks and the underrated Blind Fury. Along with some of his lesser known Verhoeven performances the early eighties was a fantastic time for him and this cool genre piece came completely out of left field when movies weren’t mercilessly hyped three months in advance and was a total surprise.

Also I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn‘t seen it but if you’re not a fan of Jennifer Jason Leigh, you’ll like this movie.

In direct contrast to Buena Vista who recently released Color of Money in letterbox only, not anamorphic as advertised and listed on the packaging, this movie gives no indication that it is anamorphic until you play it which is another nice surprise for this forgotten minor classic.

If I may be so bold, I really recommend you buy this, it’s a keeper.

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Old 03-12-00, 11:37 PM
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At its price ($20 MSRP), this is a buy, now if it was $30, then yeah, probably a renter, but I've been a fan of this movie for at least 10 years and its good each time I watch it...now I don't watch it every weekend, but its a good one to watch every once in awhile...
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Old 03-13-00, 05:00 PM
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Dang it. I was doing so well. Heh.

Don't get me wrong. I liked the movie, and I thought I said as much in the review. If you look at the real-deal review, I gave it 3 of 5 stars. And that's good, cuz it's gotta be extra special to draw 5 stars. But I thought, because of the poor quality of the transfer ... it just missed my recommending people run out and buy it.

Thankfully, it's dirt cheap, so you can buy it for not much more than the rental.

I think "Rent It" carrys an unfair stigma. Lots of movies make great rentals ... The Hitcher is one of those. Unless, you're a rabid Rutger Hauer fan, cuz he's a real badass in this one.

Jonathan ... it's funny you should mention Blind Fury as it was among the titles I was asked to choose from. I'll have to work it into the next batch. I'd hate to loose the only guy who reads my stuff.

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Old 03-13-00, 08:33 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by noelgross:
I think "Rent It" carrys an unfair stigma. Lots of movies make great rentals ...


Uh, you might want to make that clear in future reviews. When I see 'Rent It', it implies 'good for one viewing - at best'.

Also, just because you didn't give away the actual ending doesn't mean that you haven't spoiled pretty much everything leading up to it. Don't be so in love with your own writing that you spoil the very movie that you're reviewing.
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