Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Hitcher (2007) Review

The Hitcher (2007)
The Most Pointless Remake since Gus Van Sant’s Psycho

You know, most remakes at least attempt to take the basic story of the original movie and then add their own changes, for better or worse, to at least make the movie feel fresh and not the same exact thing that the original. Remember the Psycho remake, when director Gus Van Sant decided to do a shot for shot remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic? That’s pretty much what has happened here with the Hitcher, a remake of the cult classic that had Rutger Hauer in the role of the psychopath John Ryder pursuing the skittish Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) along the seeming endless roads in the middle of nowhere. This remake follows the exact plot to a T except now the waitress character in the original is replaced with Jim’s girlfriend Grace and length of the movie has been shortened to supposedly make a leaner and tighter paced movie. Unfortunately both these changes make the movie make for a less scary and satisfying experience, plus pretty much every other scene in the movie is featured (and much better handled) in the original movie.

Plot Synopsis: Its break time during school, and Jim (Zachary Knighton) and Grace (Sophia Bush) decide to go to on a road trip to meet up with Grace’s friends. While driving at night in the rain, they almost hit a mysterious man in the street, but choose to ignore him and drive off. Eventually they meet the same man at gas station, who says his name is John Ryder (Sean Bean), and choose to give him a lift because they feel sorry for leaving him back there. But Ryder proves to be crazier than he appears and almost kills Grace before being thrown out of the car. But Ryder isn't done yet, and from there the movie turns into a game of cat and mouse as Jim and Grace attempt to outrun John.


From the beginning, I knew the pacing of the movie wasn’t going to be as tight as it seemed. Despite having only an 84-minute running time, the movie has obvious signs of the director’s padding the movie to fill it out. In the original movie, director Robert Harmon was able to fill that movies 95 or so minute run time with scenes that evoked a sense of anxiety and suspense and also had some scenes that depicted Ryder as a man on a suicide run testing his victims to see if they can kill him and having an almost homoerotic fascination with Jim. Now all those scenes have been omitted and replaced with random info on how many drivers are in accidents on roads for no reason, and scenes that the new screenwriters probably thought were character moments but are actually just needless filler to lengthen the movie. Stripping all the scenes of any kind of suspense or tension, music video director Dave Meyers instead goes for cheap scares and stock shocks, much like the other Platinum Dunes production of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. Because there is no build up to virtually every scare scene, the result is a senseless, almost boring at times, movie. I think the only scene with any real tension in it was the first encounter in the car with John holding Grace hostage, a scene that is not only in the original but 10 times more frightening there too.

This brings me to both the biggest change and drawback to the films plot: the Grace character. Because of her, the feeling of isolation and hopelessness that was prevalent in the first half of the original movie is lost and tension is ruined. Also, because of her, the homoerotic undertones that were hinted at between Jim and John before are now gone from the situation. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Sean Bean was an inspired choice for the role of John Ryder, but without anything special to play off of script wise, he’s unfortunately wasted and Ryder is just the same psychopath you’ve seen in many other movies. Zachary Knighton is also very bland as Jim Halsey and brings nothing to the role. Lacking the skittish and terrified looks of C. Thomas Howell from the original, his performance is too assured and calm. Neal McDonough also seems to manage to ruin the character of police Lt. Esteringe with his performance. Esteringe, once a character with sympathy and understanding towards the character is now a completely unlikable bastard. When McDonough does eventually try to make himself likable, we don’t believe it because of he is already built up as an asshole. Speaking of the police, wow are they stupid. When they first arrest Jim and Grace for killing a family (Ryder’s work), there is no reason for it because they were actually trying to keep them from dying, unlike in the original in which Ryder plants the bloody knife in Jim’s jacket, among other situations.


You know, after the utter stupidity of the characters in the TCM remake, you’d think that the filmmakers would try and make the character’s actions more believable, but no. Every stupid action made by Jim in the original is retained here instead of fixed, and then even more are made in the process, including a scene where the protagonists decide to make out in the shower after arriving at a motel and being chased by Ryder. After that, the movie then takes the most infamous scene from the original film (Mack truck splits), turns it on its head, and turns it into gross gore effect without any fear or tension. The stupidity is then built up more by turning Grace into the stereotypical final girl who can survive exploding trucks and wield a shotgun without any recoil. Another choice that director Meyers probably thought was cool but instead comes off as pointless and once again kills tension is the addition of Nine Inch Nails “Closer” to a car chase. Ugh.

However, aside from an ok performance from Sean Bean and the first scene with John in the car, there is no reason to see the movie. Just as Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company did with the TCM remake, they take a revered and unique movie, strip it of it’s unique qualities, make a generic horror movie out of what’s left over, and run it straight into the ground.


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