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Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 223: The Hitcher

The Hitcher
Shouldn't he have his thumb out or something?

Another day, another horror remake. These days, remakes are everywhere. Remaking a movie is not a new concept, but Hollywood has officially run out of ideas. A majority of the movies are either comic book or novel adaptations or remakes. Was the world really clamoring to see a big screen remake of 21 Jump Street? In horror, sometimes a remake works out like Dawn of the Dead and The Thing. It can bring a formerly unknown horror movie to a new audience or make a mediocre horror film better. It's important not to write off a movie just because it's a remake. You need to see it for yourself before casting it into the fiery pits of hell.

The Hitcher is a 2007 remake of the 1985 movie starring C. Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer. This version stars Zachary Knighton (Happy Endings, FlashForward) as Jim Halsey and Sophia Bush (Stay Alive, One Tree Hill) as his girlfriend Grace Andrews. Jim and Grace go on a road trip for spring break across the American Southwest. On a rainy night, Jim almost hits a hitchiker on an empty road, but keeps driving. Eventually, the hitchiker, John Ryder (Sean Bean, Lord Of The Rings, Silent Hill) catches up to them at a gas stop and asks for a ride. Caught in the awkward position, Jim agrees. Things quickly turn bad as Ryder is revealed to be a murderous psychopath, taking Grace hostage and trying to force Jim to say “I want to die.” Jim thinks fast and is able to kick Ryder out of his moving car. The next day, Jim and Grace see Ryder inside a station wagon with an unsuspecting family. They try to warn them, but are run off the road, crashing Jim's car. They start to walk when they come across the station wagon which is now covered in blood. The father is still alive so they drive the station wagon in search of help, only to be attacked by Ryder in a pickup truck. When things look grim, Ryder stops the assault and drives off. They reach a roadside cafe where Grace asks a waitress to call for help, but when the police arrive, they arrest Jim and Grace. Ryder arrives at the station, killing the police officers and free Jim from his cell, allowing he and Grace to escape. Lieutenant Esteridge (Neal McDonough, 88 Minutes, Walking Tall) investigates the crimscene and determines that a third suspect, not just Jim and Grace, has killed the police officers. On the run, Jim and Grace are confronted by another cop, whom Ryder shoots in an attempt to frame them. A high speed chase ensues, with Ryder killing all of the police officers in pursuit. What does he want with Grace and Jim and how can they stop him?

"I miss my hobbits."

It's important to acknowledge right off the bat that Michael Bay was a producer for this movie. Normally, I don't point out who produces a movie, because it usually doesn't matter. It matters a hell of a lot with this movie because it reeks of Michael Bay's horrendous style of directing. Despite Dave Meyers sitting in the director's chair, you would be hard-pressed to differentiate The Hitcher from some of Bay's other movies like Transformers and Armageddon. The best way to describe this movie is “Explosion, explosion, high-speed car crash, gun shots explosion, pretty girl running, explosion, high-speed car crash, pretty girl running, more gun shots.” Everything else is just window dressing. There is a gratuitous amount of violence and blood, but it's not very thrilling. The movie certainly doesn't lack in the action department. Unfortunately, the movie forgets that it's a horror movie and ignores the tension from the first film. The original was engaging and creepy while this version is made for the MTV generation, down to the unappropriated choice of music. During a car chase scene, they actually play Nine Inch Nails “Closer”. It's a great song, but it's completely out of place with the scene. It's downright insulting that they chose to use this song, especially considering what this song is actually about.

The movie follows fairly closely t o the original material, with one big exception being the inclusion of Grace. She is simply not in the first Hitcher and I question why they felt they need to include her. This version does switch things up with the female character being portrayed as the hero, which is always good, but this doesn't happen until the last 15 minutes or so. She can barely keep it together for most of the movie and we're supposed to believe she is able to escape burning cars and wield a shotgun? Why bother doing that if you're not going to commit the entire movie to that notion? Sean Bean puts in the best performance despite not being on screen all that much. Rutger Hauer was a far more sinister version of Ryder than Bell, who was more like an unstoppable, Terminator-like villain. There is not much in the way of character development, especially in the case of Lt. Esteridge. He just kind of shows up at certain times and Neal McDonough chews so much scenery that I'm surprised the sets don't have teeth marks.

This gets the "Michael Bay Erection Of Approval"

Remaking The Hitcher wasn't a bad idea. It isn't a particularly well-known horror movie from the 80's that could play well with a modern audience. The original was smart in it's creepyness, playing on the fears of picking up a stranger. This version ignored the nuances in favor of lots of explosions and car chases. Michael Bay's stink is all over this movie, so if you hate his style of “KABOOM! BLAMMO! POW POW!” storytelling, you'll be annoyed by this as well. The characters lack the appropriate mount of development and the inclusion of a new character was unnecessary. Sean Bean is decent as Ryder, but doesn't get much help from his fellow cast members. What was once a decent horror movie has now become another run-of-the-mill action movie for unremarkable teenagers to watch when Fast and the Furious isn't on.


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