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The Hitcher (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

The Hitcher

THE HITCHER  (2007)

Starring Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Sean Bean, Neal McDonough, Kyle Davis, Skip O’Brien, Travis Schuldt, Danny Bolero, Jeffrey Hutchinson, Yara Martinez, Lauren Cohn, Mike Fisher, Joseph Michael Self, Kurt Grossi and Kurt Bryant.

Screenplay by Eric Red.

Directed by Dave Meyers.

Distributed by Rogue Pictures.  90 minutes.  Rated R.

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 psychopath?

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)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 19, 2007.

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