a critiQal film review The Hitcher (2007)

Plot: Jim (Knighton) and Grace (Bush) are on their way to spring break when they decide to give John Ryder (Bean) a ride a couple of miles down the road. Once he's in the car, however, they find out he's one of the reasons why it isn't good to pick up strangers.

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Having never seen the original film, I didn’t know much about remake The Hitcher. I assumed it was about a hitchhiker just from the title, but that’s all I knew about it. The previews made it look interesting, and with Sean Bean in the title role, I knew it could be good. So, I decided to check it out for myself.

Since The Hitcher is basically a slasher flick, the actors don’t have to do a whole lot to keep the viewer’s attention – that’s what the action and the violence is for. The bad guy, in this case Sean Bean, has to act evil – easy enough since his actions speak loudly to that effect. He plays a bad guy decently enough, taking it to the next level a bit by allowing a little crazy to show through his eyes. Since the viewer knows barely anything about his character, he doesn’t have a huge base to work with, so he plays it cool n’ crazy.

As for his next victims, all they have to do is be likable in the intro, and tough it out as long as they can throughout The Hitcher. In this case, that’s Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton. Since the viewer is distracted from the get-go, just waiting for the killer to show his face for the first time, these next targets have to be extra convincing right from the start. Sophia and Zachary do that well enough.

After the initial contact with the killer (where the next targets usually slight him in some minor way), the chase is on, and the action and violence take over. From then on out, there isn’t much in the way of acting in The Hitcher (unless you count reacting realistically to events around them).

While the two do slight the killer in the beginning by failing to pick him up, they eventually have to wind up being the heroes of the pic if they survive, so that way the viewers will feel happy that they’ve won. The Hitcher does a good job of building up that heroism when the two risk life and limb to save a family, no matter if it puts them back in the killer’s line of sight or not.

Of course, The Hitcher does overdo it a bit, by making that family as innocent as possible, complete with religious materials and gospel music playing in their car. That pushes it a little to the extreme, but still does it job of showing that the two targets can be heroic in their own ways, even if the viewer is shaking their head a little at the over-the-top way they go about showing it.

And then there’s motive. Why oh why is the killer doing what he does? Usually, there is at least a bit of a plot, and the viewer sees a bit into what causes the killer to rampage (usually it’s in his past somewhere). With The Hitcher, that goes out the window. Sure, viewers get a minor insight into why he’s killing in the final climactic sequence, but it hardly justifies the whole build-up to that moment. For most of the film, however, the viewer has no idea what the motive is, supposedly making the whole film more horrific that way. But, once the killer expresses himself (although that’s way too strong of a word), the viewer feels letdown, and it ruins most of the film.

Supposedly, they are trying to infer (thanks to the statistic about road deaths at the beginning of the film) that this no-name guy in Th Hitcher could be anyone. Sorry, but it totally doesn’t work. It may have worked in the original, but not in the remake. This time around, it’s more about the action and the violence than the “this could happen to anyone” thriller feel.

With car chases aplenty – full of spectacular car crashes – scattered throughout The Hitcher, and a relentless killer tracking down his next targets, the viewer may be inclined to call this a rip-off of The Terminator (1984) (especially since the killer seems to be nigh indestructible) instead of a horror pic. And that’s really what it should have been marketed as. The horror elements, aside from the first attack from the killer, are nothing different than anything viewers have seen hundreds of times before, but the action sequences are adrenaline pumping.

Worth a rental, but definitely not worth buying…the ending’s minimal explanation pretty much kills any chance you’ll want to see The Hitcher twice.

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