**1/2 (out of 5)
January 29, 2007
Sean Bean as JOHN RYDER
Sophia Bush as GRACE ANDREWS
Zachary Knighton as JIM HALSEY
Neal McDonough as LIEUTENANT ESTERIDGE
Studio: Rogue Pictures
Directed by: Dave Meyers
BY KEVIN CARR
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For being known as a creative industry, Hollywood isn’t all that creative. Case in point, the remake market has been huge for decades, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Now that Hollywood has remade some of the classic horror films from the 70s (e.g., “Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” “When a Stranger Calls” and “Black Christmas”), they must be running out of source material. Since most 70s horror flicks have already been mined, they’re now dipping into the 80s vault.
This is distressing not just because the industry is remaking classics (if you can call them that), but because they’re making films that I remember being in the theaters. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. It just makes me feel old.
The latest remake to hit the cinema screens is “The Hitcher,” which is based on a 1986 low-budget thriller starring Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I never saw the film in its initial release, but I did see it on video in college. I thought it was decent, but not tremendous.
The movie tells the story of two college students, Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) and her boyfriend Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton) on a spring break road trip. In the middle of the New Mexico desert, they encounter a mysterious stranger on the road (Sean Bean). They soon discover this is no hapless motorist but a murderous psychopath. As the Hitcher goes on a killing spree, Grace and Jim get framed for the crimes.
The roles of the male and female victims has been switched a bit from the original template. I’m okay with that mainly because modern-day scream queen Bush is easier on the eyes than Knighton. It goes to show that a pretty face and a popular TV show has more pull than an original plot.
Die-hard fans of the original are going to have a hard time getting past Sean Bean as the psychopathic hitchhiker, considering Rutger Hauer delivered one of his best, most creepy performances for the same role in the original. However, if you can accept a new actor, Bean does a fine job.
Having made quite a career out of playing villains, Bean deliver a great psycho in this film. In fact, he’s probably one of the best things in it, running a close second to Sophia Bush running around in a miniskirt or less throughout the film. (What can I say… I’m a sucker for a beautiful woman.)
Not being a huge fan of the original, I didn’t have any real problems with this remake except that things get a little over-the-top at times. Especially near the middle, the Hitcher turns into some sort of supervillain you might see in a James Bond or X-Men movie. When he manages to blow up three cop cars and a helicopter with a couple rounds from a pistol, it got to be too much. It reminded me of how the shark ate a helicopter in “Jaws 2.” I can only suspend disbelief so far.
The movie is loaded with plenty of violence both on- and off-screen. It’s far more graphic than the original, but that’s no surprise. Several key scenes in the 1986 version left enough to your imagination that the killings really made your skin crawl, which doesn’t happen in this version.
As far as horror remakes go, “The Hitcher” ain’t bad. It’s not great, either. It’s a relatively dumbed-down slasher-on-the-road film, but if you like that sort of thing, it’s worth checking out. I didn’t like it as much as “When a Stranger Calls” or “The Hills Have Eyes,” but it beats the pants off of some of the remakes like “Texas Chain Saw,” “The Amityville Horror” and “Black Christmas.”