Pretty boy actor C. Thomas Howell stars in this dark, violent suspense film about the strange psychological bond between a traveling serial killer and one of his intended victims. Driving cross-country from Chicago to San Diego, Jim (Howell) narrowly avoids an accident when he falls asleep at the wheel. He picks up a hitchhiker to help stay awake, but within five minutes, the erratic John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) has threatened not only Jim's life, but also his manhood, brandishing a switchblade to the boy's crotch and ordering him to keep driving. Jim manages to escape, but soon Ryder begins a game of cat-and-mouse across the Texas highways, taunting the lad from the windows of passing cars, then leaving the corpses of his victims in their vehicles by the side of the road for Jim to discover. A sympathetic face arrives in the form of Nash (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the waitress at an otherwise deserted truck stop in this bleak, abandoned landscape, but the local police soon arrive, intent on hanging Jim out to dry for the string of grisly murders. The stakes continue to mount in Ryder's little game until Jim finds himself embroiled in a statewide manhunt with Nash at his side. Former cinematographer Robert Harmon made his directorial debut with this popular thriller; screenwriter Eric Red, also making his debut, would go on to write similarly brooding genre fare including Near Dark, Bad Moon, and Alien 3.
by Brian J. Dillard synopsis