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Published January 1st, 2005 | by Mike Barnard

The Hitcher Review

Classification: 18 Director: Dave Meyers Rating: 2/5

Michael Bay continues his obsession with producing remakes of classic horror movies with the dubious decision of turning his attention to The Hitcher. Originally a vehicle for Rutger Hauer to terrorise a pair of teens on a road trip in 1986, Sean Bean unwisely agreed to reprise the role as the sadistic Jack Ryder who spends his days killing innocent people on America’s deserted highways. Lacking the cinematic legacy of Bay’s previous re-imaginings, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror, it hardly offers the same level of intrigue for movie buffs so piles on the car crashes and gore in an attempt to keep interest levels up.

When college students Grace (Bush) and Jim (Knighton) set off on spring break to New Mexico, their spirits are high. They are off to meet up with friends and party the holiday away. One night while driving in heavy rain, they narrowly miss a hitchhiker standing in the middle of the road next to his broken down car. After swerving and stopping, they argue over whether to pick up the mysterious stranger. Grace pleads with Jim to carry on so they speed off without talking to him. Later, at a service station, they bump into the same man, who says his name is Jack Ryder. Jim attempts to do a good deed and offer him a lift, but finds when Ryder is in the car he quickly turns into a psychotic killer hell bent on making their ride a road trip to their deaths.

In the opening sequence, a rabbit is hit by a car when it runs into its path: The Hitcher is similarly blunt in its approach. Until Ryder gets in Jim and Grace’s car there is an unsettling atmosphere. However, once Ryder reveals his intentions to kill the pair, The Hitcher hits fast forward and skips past logic. Jim and Grace force Ryder out the car, then he overtakes them in a car with a family. Trying to warn them, they crash and walk down the road to find Ryder has massacred the family. He then manages to frame the couple, slaughter all the officers in a police station when they do get caught and disappear without laying a finger on them before appearing from nowhere to murder them on the highway again. And that’s just for starters.

Later, Ryder takes out an armed police pursuit of the teenagers comprising three police cars and a helicopter with only a handgun, but there is no follow up from the authorities until the over the top finale: the gaping plot holes in-between make for plenty of eye-rolling moments. As producer, Bay doesn’t have a hand in directing his remakes – on this occasion the honour falls to music video director Dave Meyers. He serves up plenty of high speed crashes and gory killings to a backdrop of nomadic New Mexico scenery in typically glossy Bay fashion, yet there is nothing below this disposable surface not seen in numerous other horror films.

The performances serve their purpose and the one man who could have saved this film, a typically villainous Bean, is underused. He must be getting tired of these unrewarding Hollywood roles with Flightplan, Silent Hill and The Island all similarly forgettable entries on his CV. The Hitcher is a dull comparison to the original that will annoy fans as much as those of Bay’s previous retreads. At least his involvement is probably key to most of the enjoyment here: without him the spectacular highway pile-ups probably wouldn’t be half as satisfyingly destructive.

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