The original version of
The Hitcher was filmed on a shoestring in 1986, featuring a couple of
just-starting-to-pass-their-sell-by-date former teen stars C. Thomas
Howell (ET, The Outsiders) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fast Times at
Ridgemont High) and a Eurotrash actor who was getting typecast as the
bad guy (Rutger Hauer of Blade Runner). No one expected much of
it and the box office receipts bore that out. Funny thing happened,
though... The Hitcher became one of the first video store break-outs,
where good word of mouth had the taut little thriller flying off the
shelves as VHS rentals.
The new version is produced
by Platinum Dunes, a production company which seems to be specializing in
remaking horror movies; including Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville
Horror and upcoming versions of Friday the 13th and Alfred
Hitchcock's The Birds. Of the three so far out there (four if
you count the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel as well), The
Hitcher is by far the best film. (Then again, the source material
was a lot stronger, too...)
Still the questions arise.
Did The Hitcher need to be remade? Is this movie even close to
as good as the original? The answers are probably not and not really.
But if you divorce The Hitcher from its background, it's certainly an
effective thriller and kids who were too young to see the original (and
there are a lot of them out there who are getting out of college) will
totally embrace it as something new and different.
The remake is
certainly more gory than the first but part of the fascination of that
film was that the audience really did not see much of what happened, which
led to psychological chills. What if none of this was really happening
as we are being told and the nice guy traveling alone was just inventing the
The new Hitcher
dumps this ambiguity from the jump. Instead of a single traveling kid
on the road (as you recall, Jennifer Jason Leigh's character was a truck
stop waitress he met well into the story), here the heroes are a college
couple (Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton) going to spring break at Lake
Havasu. Another tweak on the formula is that the girl is essentially
playing the Howell character.
While they are on the road,
they meet their own personal boogeyman. On first glance, John Ryder
(Sean Bean), a stranded motorist they give a lift to, seems normal enough,
but quickly he accelerates from a little odd to psychopathic. He is
simply evil. We get no background on him (even his name is assumed).
He appears to have no motive. He doesn't even seem to be getting any
real pleasure from his acts. He appears to have superhuman powers and
always knows exactly where he is supposed to be.
Bean (Lord of the Rings)
does a fine job of playing the psychopath, but the character has lost much
of the dimension that Hauer and the original script brought it. Bush
(One Tree Hill) and Knighton also do fine jobs in their roles.
The Hitcher may not
live up to the movie which inspired it, but it is a good horror film.
If it inspires more people to seek out the original, so much the better. (1/07)