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The Hitcher Review

By Shawn McKenzie 01/26/2007

The Synopsis:

Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton) and Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) are two 21-year-old college sweethearts who are driving in a 1970 Oldsmobile 442 to Lake Havasu to meet some of Grace’s friends on spring break.  It’s a rainy night, and idiot Jim nearly hits a man who was standing in the middle of the road next to a stalled car.  Jim does a 360° turn and stops, but as the man starts coming toward the car, Grace begs Jim to keep driving (since she is the one with the brains in this relationship.)  Later, as they stop a convenience store for some gas and snacks, the stranded man catches up with them, having caught a ride in a diesel.  His name is John Ryder (Sean Bean), and he asks the store clerk (Kyle Davis) where the nearest motel is located.  Grace is in the bathroom, but John recognizes Jim as the guy who almost hit him.  Playing on Jim’s guilt, John pleasantly asks Jim for a ride to the motel.  He agrees to the ride, but Grace is leery of the stranger.  John turns out to be a psychopath who wants to play murderous games with the couple (including the “I…want…to…die” question he asks Jim that you may have seen in the trailers.)  They successfully boot him out of their moving car, but Grace also loses her cell phone.  The next day, as they continue down the road, a religious family’s station wagon passes them by.  John appears in the wagon’s backseat, so they try to warn them that they have picked up a lunatic.  Unfortunately, they crash their car over the side of a hill, and they have to walk to find some help.  They catch up with the wagon, only to discover that John has killed the family, except for the father, who is badly wounded.  They take the car and attempt to get the man some help, but when they arrive at a café, the police arrest them for the crime of killing the family.  It seems that John doesn’t want to kill the couple…he just wants to mess with their heads and frame them.  They manage to escape the police station, and the cops put an APB on them.  The only one who doesn’t think that they did the crimes is New Mexico State Lieutenant Esteridge (Neal McDonough, NBC’s canceled cult classic “Boomtown.”)  Not trusting the police, Jim and Grace attempt to flee a man who doesn’t seem to have a motive for his actions.

The Review:

Is The Hitcher an unnecessary remake?  Umm…yeah.  Is it still entertaining?  Actually…yeah…somewhat.

The movie is the fourth remake or prequel of a classic horror movie by director/producer Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company.  It all started with the 2003 remake of 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I was pleasantly surprised that I liked.  Next up was the 2005 remake of 1979’s The Amityville Horror, a movie that I have yet to check out.  Third was last year’s prequel of the remake of Massacre, which I thought was awful.

This movie is a remake of the 1986 “classic” (I say that because some would argue that the original wasn’t really a “classic”) starring Rutger Hauer (1982’s Blade Runner), C. Thomas Howell (1983’s The Outsiders), and Jennifer Jason Leigh (1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High.)  Eric Bernt and Jake Wade Wall wrote the screenplay, but the writer of the original movie, Eric Red, is also credited because the plot is so close to the original that the Writers Guild of America decided to award him with the credit.  There isn’t really a whole lot of difference between the movies.  The only main deviation from the original is that the genders are reversed of the two protagonists (ironically, the original’s direct-to-video sequel, 2003’s The Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting, which also starred Howell, switches the genders as well.)  Unfortunately, two of the most memorable scenes in the original…the severed finger French fry and the gas station explosion…are also not in the movie.  Oh well.

Hey…didn’t I say at the beginning of this review that it was still entertaining?  Yes, because of Bean.  I personally thought that he was effectively menacing as Ryder.  He had a different style than Hauer, but both of them were creepy.  Also, the effects were gory in the way that I like.  Ever since 1996’s Scream, I haven’t actually been scared by a horror movie (it exposed all of the horror movie clichés, which made me tend to always see when they come), so when I like a movie, it’s usually because of some creative gore.  It’s no Saw movie, but I liked it.

The two protagonists did an okay job…but they were essentially eye candy.  Bush was the better of the two, but it’s mainly because I like her work on the CW’s “One Tree Hill.”  Knighton was kind of a wuss and didn’t really have any common sense, but I think that was just how was character was written.

The Hitcher is director Dave Meyers’ second movie.  His first movie was 1999’s horrible Foolish, starring Eddie Griffin and the second worst rapper/actor in existence (behind 50 Cent), Master P (who, as you know if you watched the second season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” is not a good dancer either.)  Otherwise, Meyers has done some good work in music videos for artists such as Britney Spears, OutKast, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, The Offspring, and more (I’ll forgive him for also directing videos for The Dave Matthews Band.)  While he is creative visually with his videos, this movie isn’t necessarily creative.  It is decently tension-filled for today’s young adult audience…assuming that they never saw the original.

By the way…look out for the scene of Bush falling asleep in a motel as 1963’s Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds plays on the room’s TV.  Bay is currently developing a remake of the movie for Platinum Dunes, which is tentatively scheduled for release in 2009 and is rumored to be starring Naomi Watts in the Tippi Hedren role.


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