In the mid 1980’s, horror films seemed to become derivative with releases of copy cats and sequels that were being pumped out as fast as they could. Both low budget filmmakers and studio executives saw dollar signs before they saw originality. Yet in 1986 screenwriter Eric Red came up with a tale that seemed to buck this shallow trend. Prior to writing Near Dark, the Kathryn Bigelow helmed vampire film, he burst upon the seen with his script for The Hitcher, a dark and psychologically brutal film.
Directed by first time director Robert Harmon, the film divided critics more so than many films of the time. With its throwback story to such gritty movies as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and its twenty-years-too-soon foreshadowing of films such as Seven or Silence of the Lambs, folks such as Roger Ebert called it “diseased and corrupt” while Newsweek Magazine thought it to be superb.
With a supporting role by Jeffrey DeMunn and starring box office draws of the time, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh, the film became a cult classic because of the career defining role of Dutch actor Rutger Hauer. Known for playing disturbed characters in film, Rutger Hauer steals the movie as a sociopath that brings psychological chills in mannerisms and speech more so than any onscreen physical violence.
Critics have analyzed and dissected the film. Topics as wide as split personality disorder, homophobic angst, and the fight between heaven and hell have been discussed as meanings behind the film. Dark Discussions studies the cult classic with special guest M.J. Preston, author of the horror novel The Equinox, and honor a film that co-host Eric has declared as one of the top ten best horror films of all time.