2007Director: Dave Meyers
Cast: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton
’ll be honest: I walked into The Hitcher expecting a bad movie. I assumed the script would be stupendously clichéd and banal, the direction garish, inartful, and as subtle as a ball-peen hammer, and the acting fourth-rate at best. I expected an appeal to the lowest common denominator, executed in as ham-fisted and incompetent a manner as could possibly be imagined. But I was wrong, thankfully. I witnessed a thriller of true wit and originality, a solid ninety minutes of thrills, chills, and unusually strong character development. I walked in with low expectations and walked out with my faith renewed by unanticipated cinematic delight…
OK, that’s all a giant lie. The Hitcher sucks on wheels, and there’s no two ways about it. This movie is awful, and not even in a “let’s laugh at the screen” sort of way. Every frame of this movie is ponderous, dumb-assed, unoriginal studio shit that makes me feel profound regret for ever having forked over ten bucks to see it, money that will only feed the already overstuffed bank accounts of the talentless hacks responsible for making it in the first place. I can already see them in my mind’s eye, laughing and twirling their mustaches at the naïve suckers who keep them astronomically wealthy in exchange for a couple of hours of useless, brain-melting dreck. But so far, The Hitcher is box office gold, so why should they stop? Hell, even I indulged them, and I should really have known better.
As might be gleaned from a quick scan of the ubiquitous trailers currently dominating American television, The Hitcher is a horror film about a psychopathic hitchhiker named John Ryder (get it? Oh, the humanity…) who decides to terrorize a young road-tripping couple. The girl (Sophia Bush) is kind of hot, the guy (Zachary Knighton) has that scraggly handsomeness that passes for “college kid” in the eyes of movie executives, and the car (1970 Oldsmobile) is the sort of classic roadster favored by all horror movie characters but rarely seen in the possession of actual 20-year-olds.
Oh, and the bad guy is Sean Bean, here trying on an American accent to reasonable if bland effect. His John Ryder seems like a friendly enough guy to the Mr. and Mrs. Stupid serving as our heroic couple; they promptly pick him up and give him a ride. The predictable reign of psychotic violence and awful one-liners ensues as the young couple desperately tries to avoid both death and an unfair murder rap. I’d have more plot description for you, but roughly around the time Ryder attempts to drop a truck off a cliff onto his victims, I was attempting to asphyxiate myself with an empty popcorn bag.
This film may conjure up faint or even powerful memories for horror movie buffs of a certain stripe, as it is a remake of a mid-‘80s exploitation film of the same name. That movie featured Rutger Hauer as a truly chilling bad guy in a performance Bean cannot even hope to match. It also touched on a bizarre psychological relationship between Ryder and his prey (C. Thomas Howell) that lent a true sense of unease to what otherwise could have been another forgettable slasher movie. The remake pales in comparison to the C. Thomas Howell version, and let me tell you, whenever a critic can write “pales in comparison to the C. Thomas Howell version” with a straight face, it does not augur well for the film in question. Like the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre hack job, The Hitcher represents an useless retread of an exceptional horror film, and appears to exist for no other reason than to cynically trade on the cache of the previous classic. The director of the new Hitcher cut his teeth helming Creed videos, which should tell you all you need to know about the level of quality control that went into the filming of this movie.
Seeing as how Hollywood appears to be running out of fresh ideas for horror movies (the fans really do deserve better), allow me to pitch a story. It concerns an innocent but unwise film reviewer who wanders into his local multiplex and catches the latest example of gussied-up dog excrement that passes as “cinema,” and becomes horribly scarred in the process. Unable to recover from the emotional wreckage, he flies to Los Angeles and goes on a ruthless campaign to destroy the negative of every last quality film that pea-brained producers are thinking about remaking. It would be called The Critic. I hear C. Thomas Howell’s available.
The Hitcher is currently playing in wide release.
By: Jay Millikan
Published on: 2007-02-08