The Hitcher (2007)
The Hitcher (2007)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 24 min.

Release Date: January 19th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Dave Meyers Actors: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Neal McDonough, Skip O’Brien, Travis Schuldt, Yara Martinez, Lauren Cohn

 


 

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he original 1986 version of “The Hitcher” was a campy, B-movie-turned-cult-classic that claimed one of the most memorably sadistic antagonists of the era and its fair share of shocking moments. While this 2007 remake reverses a few roles and certainly updates the gore, it surprisingly manages to maintain the unnerving mood of its predecessor, staying routinely entertaining throughout its tightly paced 83-minute runtime. Unfortunately, the filmmakers couldn’t get Rutger Hauer back, but Sean Bean is an impressive replacement.

“The Hitcher” wastes no time with introductions, jumping right into the typical “college students on a road trip to nowhere” slasher film requisite. The difference this time out is that there are only two young protagonists, Jim (Zachary Knighton) and Grace (Sophia Bush). Not more than ten minutes in, the weather has gone from cheerful sunniness to a foreboding rainstorm, causing the couple to barely miss running over a hitchhiker standing in the middle of the road.

Shortly after deciding to leave the mysterious figure stranded, Jim encounters the very man in a gas station and, against Grace’s objections, agrees to take him to the nearest motel. A casual conversation with their newly acquired passenger suddenly turns sour as the hitcher, John Ryder (Sean Bean), reveals himself to be a psychotic madman determined to draw some blood. After a narrow escape, the stunned couple begins a treacherous trek across the desolate New Mexico highway where they attempt to put as much ground between themselves and their tormentor as possible. But John Ryder is not to be rid of so easily…

While the script offers a few questionable lines of dialogue, all of the actors involved handle their characters well, with both Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton at the forefront as compelling victims. Both characters break from traditional horror film fodder as they avoid being reduced to blubbering messes, instead preserving their calm during and after many of the suspenseful sequences. And Sean Bean revitalizes the role of Ryder with great relish, often mimicking Hauer’s quirks and nuances while still infusing the role with a style of menace all his own.

“The Hitcher” focuses more on jumpy thrills than psychological scares, offering up a healthy dose of bloodletting for fans of the subgenre. Complete with squirting knife wounds, bloody gunshots to the head, a couple of throat-slashings, and a torn torso, this remake – with all of its advancements in makeup effects – holds nothing back when it comes to gore. Whatever the original left to the imagination, this one makes sure audiences need no imagination at all. But it’s violence with a purpose, as the satisfying conclusion – imparting commentary on human fascination with morbidity – insists that audiences desire eye-for-an-eye, bloody revenge whenever possible.

Though Michael Bay’s recent trend of producing cult horror remakes may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it does provide a nice contrast to the onslaught of underwhelming PG-13 horror fare invading theaters of late. “The Hitcher” helps to renew faith in the concept of revisiting contemporary classics for the sake of amusement alongside pre-sold viewership; an unoriginal idea doesn’t have to be unwatchable. And the horror genre in general allows for drastic updates in visual elements for a newer generation of moviegoers, while still retaining a bit of faithfulness or nostalgic imagery to the source material.

– Joel Massie

  • 7/10