Explain to me if this sounds like a horror film to you. During a chase scene, a lone car driven by a mad man decides that he’s going to get involved. He shoots the previous cars, making them flip and explode, while also shooting the helicopter that was involved, making it crash. Explosions are everywhere. More cars flip. And now it’s a one-on-one chase scene. If this is what qualifies as “horror” nowadays, I’d rather stay away from the genre.
Of course, the real reason that this type of scene is included and executed in this manner is because the studio behind the remake of The Hitcher is Platinum Dunes, which is headed by Michael Bay. Bay loves his flips and explosions (you only have to look at his action films to see that), and it seems like he was a more hands-on producer than one might expect. However, this is completely wrong for this type of film, which requires suspense and genuine fear, not action scenes.
The plot begins as you’d expect: With two people driving down a road with a destination in mind that they’ll never get to. They begin in one state, but cross into New Mexico, which this film wants me to believe is filled with dark clouds and a ton of rain — but only when it’s convenient. After turning away for a second to face his girlfriend, Grace (Sophia Bush), Jim (Zachary Knighton) almost hits a man who was conveniently standing in the middle of the road. Instead of apologizing or offering to help the man with his car trouble, the couple speed off. It’s only later that they’ll meet the man for good, as he manages to find a ride and catch up with them at the next gas station.
After some small talk, the man — whom we come to know as John Ryder although we only really care about him because he’s played by Sean Bean — asks for a lift to the nearest hotel. Despite Grace’s warning, Jim says “sure” and soon enough, we’re driving through more rain and uncomfortable dialogue. John pulls a knife, tells them that he’s only doing it because he wants them to stop him, and is eventually thrown from the vehicle.
The next morning, the skies have cleared and we spend the rest of the film in daylight, which isn’t exactly prime horror material. John manages to catch up with the pair, and we spend the rest of the film hiding or running from the crazy man with a knife. Meanwhile, the useless police officers are blaming Grace and Jim for the random murders along the way, because they totally look capable of dispensing with bodies as frequently as the corpses turn up in this film. It’s no wonder that (movie) cops get a bad reputation.
Instead of giving us a horror movie, The Hitcher gives us one overlong chase sequence that doesn’t understand how tension is created or how an audience might possibly terrified. It takes skill to create an effective horror film that is set primarily in daylight. It also takes skill to make a movie like this one fun. The Hitcher isn’t fun in any way, even if it isn’t a complete failure. While I wasn’t enjoying myself for a single moment of this film, there were some aspects to appreciate.
For instance, the acting isn’t all around terrible. While that’s more of a bonus than an expected feature for a horror flick, I actually came to like the lead performances. I couldn’t believe in Sean Bean as the villain, though, as he wasn’t menacing enough, nor did he have the right type of screen presence to make me fear him. Also, his American accent isn’t any good. Normally, that’s not too much of a problem, but I think allowing him to use his natural accent might have actually helped his character.
I also enjoyed how the two lead characters felt about one another. There’s not superfluous relationship drama between them, which I consider a bonus. If a killer is coming after you, I don’t think you would be bothering fighting about who did what 2 years ago. These people do truly care about each other, and there’s one scene in particular that was quite touching. There were also a couple of Hitchcock references thrown in here and there, although they’re present just so fans can point them out and receive a congratulatory pat on the back.
It’s the writing that kills this film. Not just the dialogue, but the way many scenes are scripted, and how they play out. Characters act unnaturally — there’s at least one moment where one of the characters has a perfect opportunity to end Jack’s life but decides not to — and there’s enough stupidity in everyone’s actions to make you question just why these people have managed to survive this long without a serial killer after them. Implausibility also factors in, the direction is sloppy at best, and the film simply isn’t scary. It wants to mix both horror and action, but fails at doing either well.
The Hitcher isn’t any fun, even if some of the lesser elements end up working fairly well. I liked the characters and I thought their relationship was quite sweet. Despite this, action is substituted for horror, good writing for cliches and stupidity, and fun for tedium. This isn’t a scary film, nor is it an enjoyable one. It’s not a complete waste, although Sean Bean failed to make an interesting or scary enough villain to carry the film, even if he seemed to try his best. The Hitcher is a poor attempt at cashing in on the name of the 1986 cult classic, and is another unnecessary horror remake.