Hitcher, The (2007)

The Hitcher 2007 reviewStarring Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton

Directed by David Meyers

The horror genre ushered in 2006 with Simon West’s abysmal remake of When A Stranger Calls, which turned out to be one helluva bad omen for the new year. Since originality seems to be in short supply these days, 2007’s first genre entry is yet another remake – The Hitcher, brought to us by Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes.

It looks like we’re in for another bad year.

Aside from a few changes, The Hitcher ’07 is pretty much the same film as the original, just not done as well. The remake trend has been discussed and debated to death, but it’s time to face facts: Remakes have become the ultimate assembly-line for the hacks in Hollywood and this is another depressing example. It’s another dumbed-down MTV version of a subversive classic with absolutely nothing in the way of pacing, mood, or characterization. But we do get cliches. Lots and lots of cliches. The ones the original knew to avoid over two decades ago.

The Hitcher review (click to see it bigger!)The red flags go up immediately when the blaring pop rock soundtrack introduces our two young hipsters: Jim Halsey and his girlfriend Grace, who hit the desert roads in search of spring break. During a rainy night, they pick up stranded hitchhiker John Ryder (SPOILER: He’s not friendly). After a terrifying encounter, the couple escapes but are stunned to find Ryder in hot pursuit with endless bodies in his wake. Boredom ensues.

This marks the feature film debut of Dave Meyers, another big time music video director who seems lost in a world of narratives. It’s easy to pin most of the problems on the dreadful screenplay (co-written, ironically, by the screenwriter of When a Stranger Calls) but Meyers is completely uninterested in little things like build-up or atmosphere. His solution is to shoot car-crashes and explosions like… well, Michael Bay. Old habits die hard apparently, because when faced with the original’s biggest chase sequence, the director takes it a step further and turns it into one giant Nine Inch Nails video. Literally.

The Hitcher’s painful dialogue is delivered almost entirely by the two young victims and both have the screen presence of a brick wall. The only plus is Sean Bean, who gives something resembling a performance. His creepy subdued approach might’ve even made him a worthy successor to Rutger Hauer, had he been given more to work with. But as is, there’s no chemistry between any of the leads. Knighton says “fuck” a lot. Bush shows off her mid-riff. Bean pops up occasionally to kill something. That’s about all these characters have to offer.

The Hitcher review (click to see it bigger!)The heart and soul of the original was the twisted intimate relationship between a cat and his mouse. What made it stand out were the personal moments between its characters along with its subtle supernatural undertone and enigmatic villain. Watching the remake, there’s a sense that these dynamics went completely over the heads of the folks at Platinum Dunes. Their highest ambition is making teenage girls jump out of their chairs. But by the time the sexy heroine gets ahold of a shotgun and walks away from an explosion in slo-mo, The Hitcher feels more like a hilarious parody of action movies than a brutal thrill ride.

There is one absolutely terrifying moment. At one point, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds flashes onto a television set, signifying it as the next big remake from this clueless team. It instantly brings to mind the image of vapid teen actors fleeing CGI birds to Linkin Park music. Just you try and muffle those screams.

1 1/2 out of 5

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Steve Barton

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