The Hitcher kicks off with some road kill (literally), and never really gets much better from there. Aside from the obvious lack of need for such a remake (the original hit theaters a mere twenty years ago; yes, kids, that’s recent history), the entire production suffers from a fundamental, and ultimately vital, problem: Who in their right mind picks up hitchhikers anymore? Do you see a guy standing in the middle of road, wearing an ominous black trench coat, during a torrential rainstorm and think to yourself “man, I better check this out!”? Neither do I.
From a narrative standpoint the 2007 version of The Hitcher is virtually identical to its 1986 counterpart. Young couple Grace (Bush) and Jim (Knighton) are headed out for a short road trip to meet up with some friends for Spring Break. Along the way they nearly pulverize a man standing on the side of the road who seemingly has car trouble. Fearful of him, they flee the scene. It’s down the road at a gas station that Jim comes face to face with the stranded man, who turns out to be John Ryder (Bean). Feeling guilty, Jim cooperates with John’s request to be driven to a motel a few miles down the road. Things go completely sour from there as John turns out to be a psycho serial killer.
As an astute filmgoer may conclude on their own, this version, with Michael Bay producing and Jake Wade Wall (scribe of the horrendous When a Stranger Calls remake; borrowing liberally from Eric Red’s original screenplay here) writing, ups the blood, gore, and jump scares, turns down the suspense, and hashes out lame dialogue at a pace that even Ryder himself can’t match in terms of a body count. The opening act is effective enough in atmosphere and impending dread, but by the third act Wall’s script has dried up and all that’s really left to do is kill people in surprisingly mundane fashion.
Ask anyone who has seen the original version and, liked it or not, they’ll say the most memorable aspect was Rutger Hauer as Ryder. Sean Bean, much like the kid in the recent remake of The Omen, garners more laughs than scares. Is this a sign of the times, or simply bad acting? It’s hard to say, but Bean lacks emotion to the point that he may as be the T1000 from Terminator 2. Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton do what they can with their stock roles and, despite the dialogue, seem more convincing than the fresh meat that is usually served up in the genre.
Another week, another horror remake throwaway. Evil personified always has a way of attracting decent box office, and The Hitcher will likely follow suit. From a chronological standpoint, this is officially the most unnecessary remake ever. Add to that the fact that you can rent the superior original for $1 at some video stores and you have all the more reason to put that extra money in the piggy bank.
Studio: Rogue Pictures
Length: 83 Minutes
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, terror and language.
Theatrical Release: January 19, 2007
Directed by: Dave Meyers
Written by: Jake Wade Wall. 1986 screenplay by Eric Red.
Cast: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Neal McDonough, Kyle Davis, Skip O’Brien