You know they’re reaching for horror remakes when they decide to put a new spin on something from the C. Thomas Howell oeuvre. The original Hitcher was released in 1986 and starred Howell as a hapless motorist that picks up a hitchhiker played by Rutger Hauer, who proceeds to terrorize his young victim at different stops along the lonely stretch of highway. It wasn’t a great movie, in fact, it was barely a good movie, but it was highly satisfying for the exploitation fan.
This one comes from the boys at Platinum Dunes, the production house run by Michael Bay that was behind the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror. Like those movies, the story is kept more or less is the same, but a few of the details have been changed with the notion of creating something sorta new. This time, it’s a college couple heading for a spring break destination that run across the exceptionally creepy, yet unfortunately named John Ryder (Sean Bean). On a rain-soaked street in the middle of nowhere, Grace (Sophia Bush) and Jim (Zachary Knighton) have the bad luck of picking up Ryder, who then goes about making the couple’s sunny vacation a trip from Hell.
The Dunes formula has worked in the past, at least in the eyes of audiences, but for a great many horror fans the group represents the big problem currently within the horror drama: why make when you can remake? Worse still beyond the fact that they remade this, they actually did a made-for-cable sequel to The Hitcher just four years ago. Between redoing classics and Americanizing Japanese flicks, original concepts like The Descent are all the more glaring. There’s nothing particularly bad about this Hitcher, it’s just not terribly unique as entire scenes are ripped from the original, including the infamous truck stop sequence, only this time done a little more grisly. New sequences meanwhile strain the ability to suspend disbelief as Ryder single-handedly takes out four cop cars and shoots down a police helicopter with a .9 mil.
Bean just doesn’t have the menace as Ryder that Hauer did; call me crazy but I think that’s the Boromir vibe stickin’ to him. Odd for a guy who does have ample experience playing a bad ass, but then playing the Hitcher requires a certain type of psychotic disposition to be a man that kills and tortures for apparently no point. Knighton has the thankless job of playing second fiddle to the main star Bush, who puts more flare than usual into the hapless heroine role. I don’t know a lot about Bush’s acting ability seeing as how her day job, “One Tree Hill”, makes “Dawson’s Creek” look like Dostoevsky. Neil McDonough plays the cop Esteridge in this version and he’s no Jeffrey DeMunn, but then again who can be, not that he’s given a chance to prove it.
In short (and I can comfortably say that because the movie is 85 minutes long), for a remake of an average 80s horror movie, The Hitcher isn’t bad. It’s almost like I employed a double negative there, isn’t it? So here it is: see this if you must, just don’t expect the world to even slightly shift because of it.