There are two kinds of people in the world: those who care that Michael Bay has leeched on to another semi-classic horror movie property in order to milk it of every last conceivable dollar, and those who don’t. In spite of the tone of that lead in, count me among the latter. Am I particularly pleased that Bay’s Platinum Dunes has taken yet one more of the movies of my youth and rendered it unrecognizable by hiring vanilla twenty-something actors and hack screenwriters? Of course not, but in the grand scope of things, it’s pretty insignificant.
Which isn’t to say you should get your hopes up about “The Hitcher,” of course. They may not be remaking “The Third Man,” but the reason you haven’t heard of director Dave Meyers to this point is because he’s spent the last ten years shooting Creed and Britney Spears videos. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting pretty f*****g sick of my genre being the dumping ground where these guys cut their teeth. How about romantic comedies? Or movies starring Julia Roberts? Why do horror fans always get the shaft?
Anyway, as in 1986, “The Hitcher” is the story of John Ryder (Sean Bean), a mysterious hitchhiker who – in this version – convinces young Jim Halsey (Zachary Knightson) and his girlfriend Grace (Sophia Bush), two crazy kids on their way from Austin to Lake Havasu for Spring Break, to give him a ride. This proves to be a mistake, of course, and although Jim and Grace initially appear successful in ridding themselves of the knife-wielding nutjob, he soon returns to finish them off, but not before setting the couple up to look like the most dangerous pair of felons since Bonnie and Clyde.
As in the original, part of the in-joke at play is that the characters are well aware that you’re not supposed to pick up hitchhikers (unless they’re hot chicks in cutoff shorts and bikini tops, of course). Jim even remarks on this in both versions. “The Hitcher” is a cautionary tale about the perils of giving strangers a lift, much like “Alligator” is a warning against flushing your pet crocodilian down the toilet. I grant you, even your skeevier road denizens are unlikely to be as tenacious and accomplished as John Ryder. Like Pepe Le Pew, he always catches up to our attractive protagonists, who make it easy for him by steadfastly refusing to go to the authorities or behave like normal human beings.
Not that behaving rationally helps much when dealing with Super Psycho. Not only does he drive better than any law enforcement agent who’s ever lived, he can shoot a helicopter clean out of the sky…with a handgun. I’m surprised the kids don’t just give up against this ubermensch.
And for those still inclined to give this a shot, I’ll just say three words: Jake Wade Wall. You’ll of course respond with, “What?” To which I’d say, “Jake Wade Wall – in case you’d forgotten – scripted the remake of ‘When A Stranger Calls,’ which was possibly the most inept and incoherent example of a horror movie remake, and that’s saying something.” And you’ll say, “Aha, thanks for the tip, Pete.” And go on your merry way without wasting money on this.
In a perfect world.
There are some minor changes. Where Rutger Hauer’s Ryder took unholy joy in his actions, Bean is actually looking for someone to stop him. And in this version, Bush’s character is the ultimate hero. Frankly, I attribute that less to any originality on Wall’s part and more to the studios saying they wanted that “One Tree Hill” chick to be on screen as much as possible. I like to think there’s a memo floating around somewhere stating the movie should have “more Bush,” and if any intrepid Platinum Dunes staffer wanted to send me a copy, I’ll buy them a beer.
I’m not really familiar enough with Bush’s work to judge if she’s a better actor than Knightson. They’re both fairly generic pretty folk with all the personality of an eggplant soufflé, though as a male, I can’t fault the suits’ decision to let the admittedly well-built Bush scamper about in a miniskirt for most of the film. Praise it as female empowerment? Denigrate it as politically correct revisionism? Who gives a s**t? Make with the cleavage.
“The Hitcher” is no more or less unnecessary than any of the other horror remakes than have come before or the innumerable ones looming on the horizon. Reviewing it is a wholly meaningless exercise, but I do it against my suspicion that no one even seeks a second opinion before plopping down their hard-earned money for garbage like this. Prove me wrong, America.