The original 1986 Hitcher was a campy B-movie turned cult classic that claimed one of the most memorably sadistic antagonists and its fair share of shocking moments. While the 2007 remake reverses a few roles and certainly updates the gore, it still manages to maintain the unnerving mood of its predecessor and stays surprisingly entertaining throughout its tightly paced 83 minutes.
The Hitcher wastes no time with introductions and jumps 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 sun to foreboding rainstorm and the couple barely miss running over a hitchhiker standing in the middle of the road. Shortly after deciding to leave the mysterious figure stranded, Jim encounters him 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 and 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 begin 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 rid of so easily…
While the script offers a few questionable lines of dialogue, all of the actors involved handle their characters well, and both Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton make compelling victims. Both characters break from traditional horror film fodder as they avoid being reduced to blubbering messes and actually manage to maintain their calm after many of the suspenseful sequences. Sean Bean fantastically revitalizes the role of John Ryder and often mimics Hauer’s quirks and dialogue delivery. While no one can replace Hauer, Bean does commendably portray Ryder with his own style of Terminator-esque insanity, and creates a monster every bit as cunning and evil as the original.
The Hitcher focuses more on jumpy thrills than psychological scares and offers up a healthy dose of bloodletting. Complete with squirting knife wounds, bloody gunshots to the head, and a couple throat slashings and a torn torso, this remake certainly holds nothing back on the gore. Whatever the original left to the imagination, this one makes sure you need no imagination at all; but it’s violence with a purpose as the satisfying conclusion displays ever-so-morbidly that audiences want bloody revenge and will settle for no less.
Though Michael Bay’s recent trend of producing cult horror remakes may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they do provide a nice contrast to the onslaught of underwhelming PG-13 horror fare invading theaters of late. The Hitcher helps to renew my faith that remakes can be an entertaining revisit to a cult classic, and while adapting certain elements to a newer generation of moviegoers, can still remain faithful to the intentions of the original. Until Hollywood starts remaking flawless classics like Psycho, The Manchurian Candidate, or The Birds, I guess I’ll continue to visit the theaters each week.
– Joel Massie, MoviePulse