May 11, 2007
The Hitcher (1986) was a nasty little horror film that had no ambitions other than to scare the crap out of you and succeeded due in large part to Rutger Hauer’s creepy turn as a charismatic and seemingly unstoppable hitchhiker cum killer. The film was an exercise in white knuckle primal fear as a ruthless killer turned a young man’s journey into the road trip from hell. In keeping with the current trend of remaking classic horror films that don’t need to be remade (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead), Michael Bay has decided to give The Hitcher (2007) a go with music video director Dave Meyers behind the camera and television actress Sophia Bush in the C. Thomas Howell role along with fellow T.V. thespian Zachery Knighton in Jennifer Jason Leigh role (sort of).
Two college kids – Grace (Bush) and Jim (Knighton) – are traveling through New Mexico on the way to Spring Break. Along the way they pick up a mysterious hitchhiker who calls himself John Ryder (Bean) and whose car has broken down late one stormy night. He tries to kill them but they narrowly escape. Grace and Jim figure that that’s the last they’ll see of him. Of course, they’re wrong and Ryder continues to turn up time and time again like the proverbial bad penny to torment them in all sorts of sadistic ways.
The film hits a false note right from the opening shot as a cute bunny rabbit is unnecessarily run over by a car in a feeble attempt to quickly establish the film’s badass credibility. Instead, it comes across as a lame attempt that does not bode well for the rest of the film. From there, it quickly trots out the stereotypes, including the slack-jawed yokel cliché complete with lazy eye no less.
Sean Bean is fine as the psychotic killer but he lacks the casual menace of Rutger Hauer who could go from genial to intensely frightening at the drop of a dime. Bean’s take on Ryder is rather generic – he is just another monster that has to be destroyed. With Hauer’s performance, there was a certain twinkle in his eyes, a sly look and shark-like grin as if to suggest that Ryder was actually getting off on all of the carnage he was causing. It’s damn near impossible to improve on an iconic character such as this one and Bean doesn’t quite do it but certainly gets an A for effort.
Sophia Bush and Zachery Knighton don’t fare nearly as well as the good-looking young couple but to be honest their characters could be played by anyone. It doesn’t help that they lack any kind of on-screen chemistry. They don’t do anything to make themselves distinctive and certainly don’t hold a candle to their original counterparts, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
To his credit, first time feature film director Dave Meyers shoots the hell out of the movie. It looks good and almost distracts you from the weak script and generic performances. Sadly, much of the ingenuity he demonstrates in some of his music video work is absent here except for a car chase that is scored to “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. The same holds true for the scare tactics as Meyers eschews the original’s unrelenting terror for cheap jolts that we’ve seen in countless other, better movies. At least, The Hitcher doesn’t sell-out and go for the accessible PG-13 rating in favour of the original film’s hard R.
This film proves yet again that producer Michael Bay has no understanding of the horror genre, merely offering up a clone of the original film while down ‘n’ dirty independent film, Wolf Creek (2005), is a truly unsettling take on people trapped in the middle of nowhere with a psycho on the loose. So, do yourself a favour and rent that film or the original Hitcher movie.
There are eight deleted scenes that feature more footage of Jim and Grace in the police station being terrorized by Ryder and in their motel room (including multiple takes of the same scene). Also included is an alternate ending that is much more savage than the theatrical one.
“Dead End” takes a look at how they did Jim’s grisly demise. Unlike in the original, they actually wanted to show it. It’s pretty amazing how far practical effects have progressed.
“Road Kill: The Ultimate Car Crash” examines how they pulled off the film’s climatic car crash. The stunt drivers talk about how they do their job. It’s nice to see that all of the car stunts were done practically.
“Fuel Your Fear: The Making of The Hitcher” is your standard promotional featurette. Meyers describes it as a “date movie horror film.” Bean says that he likes playing bad guys because it is so “psychologically rewarding.” Basically, cast and crew gush about Bean and Meyers with plenty of clips from the movie.
Finally, there is “Chronicles of a Killer,” a collection of faux news footage that played in the background of scenes in the movie.