The Hitcher

Apparently, there was only one movie opening in the infamous wide release this weekend, and I wasn’t lucky enough to get any of the limited release films around here this weekend. (That does sometimes happen, honest.) So that left me with The Hitcher.

Apparently, there was only one movie opening in the infamous wide release this weekend, and I wasn’t lucky enough to get any of the limited release films around here this weekend. (That does sometimes happen, honest.) So that left me with The Hitcher.

I didn’t particularly want to see this, but it did have Sean Bean in it as the evil John Ryder, and I like him. He’s so often cast as a bad guy, which I’ve never quite understood — he can pull off evil and psychopathic quite well, but he still looks like such a nice guy I sometimes find myself rooting for him to win at the end. That’s probably what most psychopaths would want, though. Anyway, he’s very definitely a psychopath here, though, sadly, I couldn’t even bring myself to want him (or indeed, anyone) to win. I only wanted all the pain to be over. I’m pretty sure the movie’s tagline of “I want to die” wasn’t actually meant to echo the feelings of the poor fools watching it, but that was what I kept thinking.

At 83 minutes, it’s at least mercifully short. The first forty-five minutes or so would work better as a drivers’ education training film — they covered quite a few bad driving maneuvers, though of course most people don’t ever have to deal with being shot at (or shooting) while driving. But there’s a pretty, scantily-clad girl (Grace, played by Sophia Bush) in nearly every scene, so your average heterosexual male high school student would at least pay attention.

So Grace and her boyfriend Jim (Zachary Knighton) are college students headed to Lake Havasu for spring break. (Why any road leading to Lake Havasu, which I’m pretty sure has to be a very popular spring break destination, is as deserted as the roads are in the movie, I couldn’t say.) During a terrible thunderstorm, the kids nearly run over a man standing next to a car with its hazard lights flashing, but a panicky Grace persuades Jim to keep driving, and they’ll call for help for the guy. The guy, for some obscure reason, then begins a rampage of gruesome murders that always, somehow, cycle back to our heroes, who must fight to survive and clear their own names. That’s the whole plot right there.

This is a remake of a 1986 movie of the same name, which I haven’t seen. Probably just as well, or I’d also be annoyed over how the memory of that earlier film has now been sullied. The original, unsurprisingly, was apparently much better. The first John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), I’m told, had ambiguous but tantalizing motives for his madness. This John Ryder just seemed to want to kill people, and I rapidly discovered that I didn’t care why. He didn’t even seem to like killing, though he was astonishingly good at it. And in spite of the fact that he made no effort either to disguise himself or prevent leaving fingerprints all over everything, he had no criminal record of any kind. Apparently he’s the Einstein of serial killers.

Strangely, the kids don’t really make any of the traditional horror/slasher movie mistakes that I was expecting, at least not at the beginning. They do voluntarily get into and drive a car full of Ryder’s victims, but given that one was still alive and needed help, there really wasn’t anything else they could have done. They do get blindsided a lot, but I think it’s a rule that no character in a movie such as this is allowed to have any peripheral vision to speak of. (Grace must be related to the indestructible Claire from NBC’s Heroes, though. She survives a van blowing up with her in it with hardly even a smudge of soot. She even instinctively knows how to work a pump shotgun. She’s Superwoman!) The kids’ acting was good but nothing spectacular, and unfortunately I have to say the same thing about poor Sean as well. At least he seems to have plenty of other movies coming up, so he can shake this off.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, crisply-directed flick that will make you jump out of your seat at least every ten minutes, here you go. Want a killing fest, featuring quite probably the most bloody and gruesome death scene I’ve ever seen? You’re all set. If you want to see a good movie, though, we’ll both have to wait until next weekend. That Blood and Chocolate sounds like it might be interesting.

This one gets one and a quarter idols, and the quarter is only because the credits listed three people with the job description of “dust busters”. If they’d actually killed off the scary, inbred convenience store clerk who freely admitted to having been kicked in the eye by an angry donkey which he was trying to milk, then it would have gotten two idols.

Originally published 1/2007. Time has not mellowed my opinion of this movie. This and Avatar are still the only two movies where I’ve ever seriously considered walking out of the theatre. It has a lot of competition for Most Gruesome Death Scene now, though.