Two friends Roy Collins and Gilbert Bowen are going for a fishing trip in Arizona when they make the mistake of picking up a hitch-hiker who turns out to be a deranged fugitive, Emmett Myers. Intent on getting past the Mexican border to freedom, Myers drags the two across the desert. Once they realise it's not a question of if they'll be killed by their deranged captor, but when, the two must do something to fight back, or die in the process...
The first noir film directed by a woman, The Hitch-Hiker is a wonderfully creepy film. A film that makes the most of its low budget, you wouldn't even realise this was probably made for only a couple of bucks! It takes place largely in a car, with the same three guys, and despite such a 'limitation', it never comes across as boring. Far from it, it's a really tense picture! The tension builds and builds as the heros start getting more desperate.
The setting is really effective. Any scenes that don't take place within the small car are set in the expansive American/Mexican desert, which feels as oppressive as Myers in places. Also, on a sidenote I liked how the Spanish characters actually speak Spanish with each other, not English.
Perhaps the biggest potential issue/obstacle facing The Hitch-Hiker is that movies predominately set in real time with just a couple of people aren't always heavy on character. They can be, but in this case, we've got two guys who already know each-other, and a gun-toting psychopath, so there aren't any moments of enlightening character development where the protagonists chat with their captor about their hopes and dreams. Because of this, the actors have gotta work with the material they have to bring their characters to life. Thankfully they manage quite well. Their characters are pretty average guys, but that's the point. This could happen to anyone, no matter how normal you are.
The villainous Myers gets a decent amount of character, which becomes a big factor in the climax, in a really satisfying way!
The score here is very =, aiding well in building up the atmosphere. A good thing too, because the way this movie is directed, it could've been boring as hell without the music! It's amazing the effect (or lack thereof) music can have on a film. A scene could be tense and thrilling even if it's just a man walking down a street, but you take the scoring out of the equation, and we're just watching a man walk down a street.
Lastly, the actors here all do fine jobs. William Talman is wonderfully creepy as the villain, while Frank Lovejoy and Edmund O'Brien deliver good performances, and are believable in all their actions.
The Hitch-Hiker is a unique noir film, and well worth a watch. If you're looking for a movie in the genre that's a bit less stereotypical than the usual fare, this is for you!...