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The Hitcher Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 16+

Spare and engrossing original road slaughterfest.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there are a number of vicious killings in this film, frequently by gunshot, and there's even a hint that a whole family with children has been massacred -- although viewers don't see it happen. In fact, a lot of the very worst gore (and, given the opportunities, it could have been much worse) is left off-screen and to viewers' jangled imagination. That said, a scene in which a character is chained to an 18-wheeler truck, ready to be torn apart when the vehicle moves, is infamous.

  • Families can talk about the cruel game the script plays, hinting at some kind of willing give-and-take in the hunter-prey relationship between psychopathic killer John Ryder and frightened, innocent young Jim - the only character who seems able to combat him. In that sense, this R-rated movie parallels the strange, almost father-son relationship in what is typically considered a wholesome family classic -- Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island -- in which another murderous John (Silver) is the mentor and benefactor (yet the deadly enemy) of a boy named Jim (Hawkins). Those names can't be just coincidental. Ask teens what they think of the two stories, and the parallels. If nothing else, you'll get them reading Treasure Island with fresh eyes. If you've seen the 2007 remake, you can also compare the two films. Which one is more effective? Why?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: While the nominal hero of the piece, Jim Halsey, constantly strives to prove he's innocent and tells everyone "I'm no killer," there's a suggestion of a weird mentor-disciple relationship evolving between boyishly innocent Jim and the psychopathic John Ryder. By the end, it's not clear whether Jim has turned killer or not. Most of the police officer authority figures shown are shortsighted brutes, ready to shoot down innocent people.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: Bloody shootings at close range. A dog is seen chewing on a dead body. A man is hit/thrown from a car. Vehicles crash, and a gas station blows up, almost taking one character with it. In a notorious outrage, a person is chained to a huge truck and torn in half -- although viewers don't see the actual atrocity take place, just the awful suggestion. Closeup of a severed finger.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Not an issue

  • language false3

    Language: Some uses of "f--k" and "s--t" (but actually pretty mild under the circumstances).

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: None, unless you're good at spotting vehicle makes.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Nothing much stronger than beer or coffee.