Hurrah! Another remake! Pointless but acceptable retread.
If there's one group of film releases that's guaranteed to engender apathy around these parts, it's needless remakes. If there's one group of film releases that's guaranteed to engender outright hostility around these parts, it's horror films. Combine the two, especially on a track record that includes House of Wax, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, When A Stranger Calls and you can imagine the welcome that news of a remake of The Hitcher received when it broke. Still, ever seekers after truth, we braved exposure to such potentially soul-scarring material and are frankly flabbergasted to report that it occupies the more acceptable end of the remake-o-horror spectrum, which admittedly is dropping it into 'best of a bad bunch' territory but, hey, you swing with the bat you're given, right?
While the earlier incarnation saw an unhinged Rutger Hauer bombing about framing a hapless youngster for his crimes after said youngster escapes Ryder's murderous intentions, this rehash sees Sean Bean picking up John Ryder's switchblade to bother Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton) and his girlfriend Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) as they make the mistake of picking up Ryder on their way through New Mexico. In gratifyingly short order that switchblade is brought into play as all that tedious, un-necessary baggage like character motivation is lobbed out of the nearest window. We're in slasher country now, sonny Jim.
Lo, slashing does occur, as after narrowly escaping Ryder's clutches our youngsters find themselves in the local cops' firing line as they take the rap for Ryder's prior and subsequent happy stabby funtimes. Ryder's little rampage is thankfully entertaining enough to forgive his apparent psychic abilities, homing pigeon-like location tracking and super hyper turbo elite S.A.S. training in firearm accuracy and, er, making cop cars flip over by driving near them, somehow. It sort of goes with the territory, I suppose.
Now, barring the general 2K7 lick of paint and accompanied needless excess that The Hitcher has been given, there's very little significant difference in script between this competently handled redo and the original. The film is, as a rule, competently directed and executed with a welcome absence of the usual silence/loud noise jump shocks that the horror genre has devolved into over the last decade. Ryder's character remains a whacked out psycho who couldn't tell you why he's perpetrating such horrors on the world, with a likeable absence of any of this 'empathy' nonsense. In a way, the Ryder character (albeit arguably a Michael Myers sans mask knockoff) is as effective a bogeyman as is possible, with no cheap reliance on silly supernatural gubbins and even proving difficult to class as human, at least as we understand the social animal. Hell, even Freddy Kruger had some rationale for kicking off his shenanigans. Ryder's just a total fruit loop.
So in algebraic notation, we can reduce this review to:
- Let a = Original film
- Let b = Remake
- Let x = Ruter Hauer
- Let y = Sean Bean
- By observation, y < x
- Therefore, b < a
- Quadbike Eric Demonsbanana.
Which isn't to say that Bean is ineffectual in this film, but he's just not as suited to the role of crazed loon as well as Hauer, for whom it seems lunacy is a lifestyle option with which he is well acquainted.
There's a halfway reasonable argument to scale back any admiration, if so grandiose a word can be used, for this film on the basis that you may as well be watching the original at any given moment of the film, but let's be generous with it. After all, it will probably wind up being the best horror outing this year, more's the pity. Instead, let us turn out attention towards the BBFC, who now seem to be awarding certifications by sweepstake rather than considered opinion. While The Hitcher isn't the grizzliest film you're likely to ever see by a good long chalk (and nor is it relying on being so, so don't take that as a knock), there's a lot of dead bodies over the course of this film in various states of stabbiness, shootiness and, memorably, bisectediness. I'm left wondering what was needed to push it over the top for an 18 rating. Probably some nakedness, knowing how bizarrely inverted western attitudes are to sex and violence are in films. Ah well, best not worry about it too much. Let the bodies hit the floor!
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.
Sophia Bush (Grace Andrews)
Zachary Knighton (Jim Halsey)
Neal McDonough (Lieutenant Esteridge)