I’ve always found Rutger Hauer to be an awesomely menacing actor, and The Hitcher – Robert Harmon’s preposterous thriller about a kid named Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) who picks up a hitchhiker (Hauer) in Texas and winds up being terrorized by the stranger – does nothing to dispel that notion. The film, written by Body Parts scribe Eric Red, is a horribly long-winded affair, weighed down by both Howell’s awful performance as a fresh-faced youth consumed by vengeance and a slow-footed story that not only makes no sense (if Halsey is driving from Chicago to San Diego, how the hell did he wind up in Texas?), but also disastrously keeps Hauer’s boogeyman off-screen to heighten tension (the result, predictably, is the exact opposite). Harmon’s direction is a mixed bag – at times his compositions are laughably exaggerated, at other times he captures the frightening, oppressive desolation of the desert highway (and provides a truly frightening image of Hauer leering in the dark corner of a motel room) – and one can only groan at the realization that Hauer’s unhinged hitchhiker may be pestering Halsey because he wants to turn the teen into his bloodthirsty doppelganger. Still, Hauer is at the top of his game, his wild, shining eyes glowing like those of a nocturnal predator maniacally focused on his prey, and his relaxed physique masks an imposing, coiled viciousness. The actor may have gone on to make even worse B-movie blunders, but the Scandinavian star is nonetheless a master of off-key creepiness, and his lunatic performance is the only thing that keeps The Hitcher from completely running off the road.