The Hitcher is a film I find incredibly difficult to be objective about. Notwithstanding the dismal and desultory remake that appeared in 2007, the original 1986 production has for some years been challenging as my favourite film of all time. In the dark days of university when I had to endure endless drinking sessions in which Eisenstein or Jean-Luc Godard were toasted, I did my best to trumpet the brilliance of Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Wicker Man (1973) or The Hitcher. One such evening saw a painfully serious young chap wax lyrical on the montage editing favoured during the 1920’s by a number of Soviet filmmakers. It was summer, it was hot and stuffy in the bar, but this didn’t stop the guy from wearing a scarf indoors. Anyway I digress (but what is a blog for, if not for digression?). I was left cold and unimpressed by The Man with a Movie Camera (1929), and instead I pointed out a scene in The Hitcher in which C. Thomas Howell is being chased down the desolate highway by a couple of cop cars. This scene is a marvel of editing, it includes a moment in which a helicopter is shot out of the sky, and ends with the cops managing to blow the tyres out of both cars. I also mentioned a sublime low angle tracking shot which glides towards Rutger Hauer after he has been thrown out of Howell's car. The low angle giving Hauer a malignant menace that haunts the film. Academic theories are merely models to aid a certain interpretation. They cannot answer the question of what makes a film good, or why we like a film. These questions are shrouded in a veil of subjective mystery. I cannot say whether The Hitcher is a good film or not, and I’ve seen it twenty times. Yet my colleagues that evening convinced themselves it was rubbish without ever having seen it. I prefer to embrace the mystery, to accept the unknowable…I should have known then that a career in academia was probably not for me.
© Shaun Anderson - 2010