Remake just about reaches the creepy heights of the original

The Hitcher

on February 21, 1986 by Tim Cogshell

We've got to get the kids to stop driving through painted deserts in old cars on their way to sex romps — it always works out badly. On their way to spring break, Grace ( John Tucker Must Die 's Sophia Bush) and Jim (Zachary Knighton) nearly run over a stranded hitcher (Sean Bean of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ) but pass him by only to run into him again (so to speak) a few miles down the road. Feeling a little badly, they decide to give the guy a ride to a hotel. Eighty minutes later the movie is over, you change you underwear, and you wonder why you would put yourself such a thing on purpose, particularly when you actually knew what was going to happen because the movie is a remake.

One remembers the original Hitcher (1986), starring Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell and the comely Jennifer Jason Leigh, as an absolutely chilling and extremely disturbing horror thriller that tainted the notion of thumbing-it for years to come. The notion is once again well tainted. It is difficult to believe that some 20 years on a remake could possibly evoke that sort of suspense and sheer unease again. Indeed, this Hitcher does not, but it comes more than close enough.

Working with a narrative that, save a detail or two, is pretty much the same as the original, director David Meyer brings a slickness to the screen (and loads of music) that one might anticipate from a music-video helmer. But he also leans a bit more on character and narrative than one might expect, particularly in these get-em'-naked-and-kill-em' days of gratuitously violent horror movies. Not that this isn't plenty violent and gratuitous its own way.

Bean's portrayal of the hitchhiker is perhaps not as menacing as the physically intimidating Hauer, but menace is relative, and certainly Bean is funnier, if one can describe a dangerous sociopath as funny. The movie is funnier too, mostly in an unintended way (plot holes abound and characters do the dumbest things), but this is fine — an occasional chuckle at some of the knuckle-headed antics is welcome relief from what is generally a tautly held tenor of tension, peppered with the outright horrible. If you remember the original Hitcher, notably how it ends, and it caused you sleepless nights, prepare to watch some late night cable for a few days — or weeks. Distributor: Rogue
Cast: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton and Neal McDonough
Director: Dave Meyers
Screenwriters: Eric Red and Jake Wade Wall and Eric Bernt
Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller
Genre: Horror thriller
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, terror and language
Running time: 83 min.
Release date: January 19, 2007

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