“While driving through the New Mexico Desert during a rainy night, the college students Jim Halsey and his girlfriend Grace Andrews give a ride to the hitchhiker John Ryder. While in their car, the stranger proves to be a psychopath threatening the young couple with a knife, but Jim succeeds to throw him out of the car on the road. On the next morning, the young couple sees John in another car with a family, and while trying to advise the driver that the man is dangerous, they have an accident. While walking on the road, they find the whole family stabbed in the car, and John sees that the driver is still alive. He drives to a restaurant seeking for help, but the police blame Jim and Grace to the murder and send them to the police station. However, John kills the policemen and pursues the couple, playing a tragic and violent mouse and cat game with Grace and Jim.”

Director: Dave Meyers
Writers: Eric Red, Jake Wade Wall, Eric Bernt
Staring: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Neal McDonough
Release Date: January 19, 2007

The Hitcher (2007) fits perfectly into the 2000s horror remake trend,. It joins the ranks of Nightmare On Elm Street (2010), Friday The 13th (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008), Day Of The Dead (2007), Halloween (2007), Silent Hill (2006) (I know it’s not a remake but it is based solely off existing horror IP), Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), Dawn Of The Dead (2004) and Freddy Vs. Jason (2003).

What a fine list. To be perfectly fair, many movies on this list are serviceable. However, in the effort of honesty, many of them are abominations to cinema as well. Where does The Hitcher stack up? Lets hop in and find out.

If you have seen The Hitcher (1986), then you know the general sense of what this movie going to be. It is important to note that there is a new hero in the story, and that is Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush). She is in a relationship with Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton), and together they are on a road trip for a spring break trip. The couple’s little escapade of college stupidity takes a deadly detour when John Ryder (Sean Bean) guilts them into a hitchhiking ride at a local gas station.

From that point on, it is a race to survive for Grace and Jim. After an initial escape from Ryder, the serial street-side killer hunts down the pair and taunts them endlessly until the film’s ending. Grace and Jim have to cross paths with Ryder in motels, police stations and on the open road. Their fight for survival is complicated when they are framed by Ryder for his crimes, resulting in police intervention at some of the worst moments. In the end, it comes down to a face-off between Grace and Ryder. The beautiful lady taking on the ugly murder. No one around them but the open road.

If there is one most obvious thing about The Hitcher, it is that Michael Bay was in the mix making this movie. He is in the credits as a producer, but his fingerprints are all over the film itself. It has the musical cues. It has the explosions. It has the attractive women showing off their assets. It has the frenetic pace. David Meyers directed The Hitcher, and it is his only film credit. he is known primarily for his music video prowess; he started there…took a bit of a detour to try Hollywood…and then went back. It was a one way stop for him. If I were a betting man, I’d say that Bay himself had to step in to help the first-time motion picture director get his footing, hence the incredibly strong footprint he lay.

Where The Hitcher thrives in a faster pace with less dragging moments, it lacks in tension and peril. The quiet moments of dread that are in Robert Harmon’s original are not present in this remake. The lines of dread delivered by Bean’s portrayal of Ryder come off as cheesier and forced, rather than alluringly slow and maniacal. While the essence is not the same between the pair, that is not the fault of Sean Bean himself. He does have an aura of menace about him in this movie. When he is interacting with Bush and Knighton on the show, you can tell he is more experienced and a better acting talent.

Let’s drop this here. Sophia Bush is attractive. There, get your bonk out of the way.

Sophia Bush gives a cookie-cutter performance as Grace Andrews. It is a role that could have been filled by many a pretty women willing to take part in some terror and wear flattering clothes. In watching The Hitcher, it is hard to pinpoint what is the more damning part of Bush’s performance; is it the script that she is working off of, or is it the lack of experience/direction from a first time major motion picture director, or is it the performances surrounding her…AKA the performance of Jim Halsey. I think it is a combination of many different variables.

This The Hitcher remake appears to have been boycotted by the makes of the original. Eric Red is the writer of the 1976 version and is credited with working on this 2007 film, but in reality he never touched it at all. Rutger Hauer, who played John Ryder in the original, declined a cameo appearance and according to IMDB.com, he is yet to watch the remake. I personally, can’t say that I blame him.

Before we end, we just have to compare the two movie taglines here. The 1986 version has a tagline of “The terror starts the moment he stops.” This works on many levels. Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) literally stops on the road to pick up John Ryder. Also, once the worst version of manhunt begins, the terror comes for Jim when he stops moving and Ryder catches up to him. It has a nice double meaning. The tagline for the 2007 remake is “Never pick up strangers.”. I mean, this speaks for itself.

There are many similarities between the two films versions of Ryder’s malice, but only one that is worth watching. You will see the helicopter over-the-hill shot, the police station scene, a human being pulled in two and plenty of remarkable explosions and car crashes. What is only prevalent in the original is a true sense of terror, a fun sense of “what the hell is happening” and a truly memorable villain.

The Hitcher falls in the same exact pool as many of the horror remakes I mentioned at the start; it is flawed and ultimately poorly executed. However through the warts and bruises, there is a semblance of background noise entertainment. You can watch this movie and look up from time-to-time for the moments that interest you, and then not remember it a week later.

STANKO RATING: D (2.0/5 Stars)

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