College sweethearts Jim and Grace jump into his car and head off on a spring break road trip. Along the way they run into a torrential rainstorm and almost run over a weather-beaten man standing in the middle of the highway next to his broken-down vehicle. Out of a sense of guilt, kindhearted Jim decides to give the guy a ride to a local motel.
Long before they get there, of course, the man pulls a knife and bids them to beg for death. The two kids miraculously survive the encounter but find it impossible to escape the psychopath's pursuits as he chases them from town to town, leaving bloody carnage in his wake. In fact, things are so bloody wherever the two kids go that the police begin to suspect that they are the lunatic killers.
After Jim and Grace slip through the madman's fingers the first time, they see him hitching a ride with a family and risk their lives to try to warn them of the danger (crashing their car in the process). Later when they come upon the family's vehicle, the two struggle to keep the horribly wounded father alive.
A state police lieutenant recognizes that Jim and Grace are innocent and tries to protect them. Later, when the officer is trapped in his car and the killer approaches, Grace makes a strenuous effort (trying to reach a gun in a burning vehicle) to save his life.
The family Jim and Grace spot appears to be a Christian one. And their car bears a Honk If You Love Jesus bumper sticker. After the brutal murders, a blood-smeared children's book titled Will I Go to Heaven? drops out on the road. As Jim tries to stop the father from bleeding to death, the man prays, "The Lord is my shepherd. I will fear no evil for You are with me."
Grace, who shows a little cleavage and lots of leg throughout the picture, starts the trip by running out to the car wearing a bra and panties covered by an oversized tank top. She wraps her bare legs around Jim and the camera looks on as she changes out of the tank and into a miniskirt and a formfitting low-cut top.
After one round of bloody action, Jim and Grace break into a hotel room and take a hot shower together to clean up. The two embrace and kiss and are seen naked from mid-chest up. (There's partial breast nudity in this shot.) Attempted rape is the subject of another scene in which Ryder chases Grace, fights with her and straddles her. (She's wearing a T-shirt and tiny panties.)
Ryder, among others, makes vulgar and obscene comments about sex and sexual body parts. The Nine Inch Nails song "Closer" plays in the background.
It's hardly a spoiler (considering the rancid remake status of The Hitcher) to expose one the film's most violent and gruesome scenes in which Jim is chained by his wrists and ankles between two eighteen-wheelers. Ryder sits behind the wheel of one truck and tortures Jim by slowly inching the vehicle forward. As the chains rip into flesh, Grace runs to the cab with a gun screaming at Ryder to stop. Ryder tells her to go ahead and shoot him, but warns that if she does, the truck will lurch forward and kill her "whiney f---ing boyfriend." He grabs her hand and presses the gun to his forehead saying, "I want to die." When she can't do it, he takes the gun from her, screams, "You useless waste" and pushes the accelerator, ripping Jim in half.
This is just that kind of movie.
The violence floodgates open when Ryder first appears, unfolds a bloody knife, grabs Grace and threatens her with the blade pressed below her eye. Jim slams on the car's brakes, ramming Ryder's head into the windshield, and then kicks him onto the asphalt. Grace and Jim fly off the road and demolish their car at one point and then walk up to a car containing the massacred family. As they reach it, a bloody hand slaps against the window and they find a man with a knife sticking out of his chest (still spurting blood). We also see a close-up of a dead woman with a slashed throat as well as the blood-spattered body and teddy bear of one of the dead children.
Later, several policemen are shown dead in pools of blood (with a dog lapping at one gore-covered face). Policemen are shot in the forehead (one with a pistol, one with a rifle). Their vehicles flip, smash and explode along with a helicopter. An officer has his throat ripped out by a handcuff shackle. And a man takes an execution-style blast to the head (with brain-splattering results).
Ryder breaks his thumb while escaping from a set of handcuffs. A truck is driven off a cliff and crashes to the ground mere inches from Jim and Grace.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Jim and Grace mention that they're looking forward to having a few beers with friends.
The Hitcher begins with a cute, defenseless bunny hopping out of the grass and onto a barren roadway that curls off into the distance. There's a vehicle approaching from a faraway point and we tense with the expectation that it might threaten this innocent little creature. In what becomes the first of many jump scenes, a car coming from the opposite direction roars over the camera, crushes the animal before our eyes and smears its gory remains across the road.
That ugly scene is grossly predictive of what takes place during the balance of the flick. Two very attractive kids step into a classic Olds 442 and floor it into the glittering sunset of a Southern highway. And along comes a spider. The typical Hollywood setup for a grisly carnival thrill ride. Suspense, action and enough blood to fill the seats with people who crave a little more than even TV gives 'em these days. That's the formula.
If you're one of those cravers and still think The Hitcher might be worth a few of your hard-earned bucks, you should also know what it doesn't have. After the butchering was over, the credits puffed out a whiff of something I couldn't quite put my finger on at first. Besides the obviously unsavory bits, the images left a bitter dramatic aftertaste, like sucking on a dirty penny. Then I figured it out. There was no one to root for.
Most of the "good" guys die and the one left has been pummeled by relentless evil to the point of numbness, saying, "I don't feel anything" before blowing another person's brains out. The curtain falls and evil wins. In truth, evil itself is the nonchalant hero here. And it's not a wicked witch of the west, make-believe kind of evil, either. Nor is it an I'm-psychologically-twisted-because-of-my-cruel-childhood kind of evil. It's more pointless than that. And it's something that feels all too real to be anything close to entertaining in today's world of serial killings, school shootings and suicide bombings.