|The Hitcher (2007)
Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Kyle Davis, Neal McDonough
Director: Dave Meyers
You know things are bad when you actually wish Michael Bay would direct more movies than he produces. The man’s gotten positively fat while serving as producer to a slew of horror remakes (“The Amityville Horror,” two “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movies) that are nonessential at best and exploitative at worst (this whole ‘all horror, all the time’ thing needs to go, and soon). His latest money grab, a remake of the 1986 thriller “The Hitcher,” is his most nonessential remake yet. A murderous hitchhicker? That’s about as relevant as a movie about a killer milkman or, as our own Jeff Giles suggested, a haunted iron lung.
The movie begins with Jim (Zachary Knighton) picking up his girlfriend Grace (Sophia Bush) at college on the first day of spring break to visit her friends in New Mexico. Jim spends a lot of time staring at Grace while he’s driving, which is why he nearly hits a man standing in the road next to a broken down car and nearly wrecks trying to avoid him. Jim wants to take the guy, John Ryder (Sean Bean), to the nearest gas station, but Grace refuses. When they get to the gas station, John pulls up after getting a ride from a trucker. He asks Jim if they’ll take him to a hotel up the road. Jim reluctantly agrees, and almost instantly regrets it. John breaks Jim’s cell phone and terrorizes both of them before Jim thinks fast and disorients the man long enough to boot him out of the car. From that point on, John systematically terrorizes Jim and Grace, killing other families on the road and setting the couple up for the fall.
There is very little here that appears to have been given much thought. The extent of Bush’s character development is that she makes a certain face when she has to pee. Grace and Jim set new lows for horror movie smarts (or, more accurately, a lack thereof), continuing to run and looking guiltier by the minute when a simple examination of the evidence would exonerate them in seconds. (Even the dumbest cop would know a rifle bullet from a handgun bullet, especially if the handgun had never been fired). The police are just as incompetent: a fleet of squad cars, and a helicopter, are victims of the most preposterous ambush in movie history. And God help Bean, who has to strive to be even one-dimensional. His hitcher has no time for charm and doesn’t even attempt to emotionally disarm his prey. He just drives on with a strange, Zen-like menace that is neither scary nor interesting.The best thing that can be said about “The Hitcher” is that it is mercifully short, a scant 83 minutes. And yet, I still looked at my watch at the 65-minute mark. The movie was over almost as soon as it began, and I was still impatient for it to end. Think of all the other things you can do in 83 minutes besides going to see “The Hitcher.” Now go do them.
We already know that a remake of the classic horror-thriller was completely unnecessary, but Universal’s attempts at making a special feature-packed DVD only make it that much more embarrassing. It’s clear just by sitting through the 30-odd minutes of extras that this is just another action movie in disguise. A handful of delete scenes and three production featurettes – one on the film’s most gruesome death scene (“Dead End”), another on the film’s climactic car chase (“Road Kill”) and a generic making-of (“Fuel Your Fear”) – make up a majority of the special features, while a faux news report on Ryder’s murders (“Chronicles of a Killer”) also appears.