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The Hitcher

MSRP: $29.98
RUNNING TIME: 84 Minutes
Deleted scenes
Behind-the-scenes featurettes

The Pitch

"It's Tom and Jerry meets Halloween!"

The Humans

Sean "Gravitas" Bean, Sophia "Hot Republican" Bush, Zachary "Who?" Knighton.

The Nutshell

For the love of god, don't pick up hitchhikers! In the grand tradition of the recent remakes of When A Stranger Calls, Black Christmas, House of Wax, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, modern teen icons are sent into a well-worn gauntlet of horrors with nothing much at the end to entice them through.

"Is this a dagger I see before me?"
"Stick to the script, Sean."

The Lowdown

I hadn't given this project much mind until the announcement came along that Sean Bean would be playing the psychopath made famous in the original by Rutger Hauer. I've got something of a Sean Bean fixation. I rooted more for him than almost anyone else in Silent Hill, second only to Pyramid Head. His name sold me a copy of Equilibrium, back before I knew about CHUD. My wife has put a standing ban on my speaking any sentences that begin with: "One does not simply walk into . . . ."

That's why it shouldn't come as a surprise that, in my estimation, Sean Bean is the best thing about The Hitcher remake. Amazing, isn't it? A veteran and gifted actor is the best thing about a movie with a ridiculous plot, absent motivation, schizophrenic intentions, and wretched pacing. Even if I weren't aware of Sean Bean, I have a feeling I'd feel a sympathetic attachment to him after watching The Hitcher, just because I would need something to latch on to.

Poor Red-Handed Jill the Ghost, cursed to be eternally left hangin' on a high-five.

My criticisms of this thing aren't even my usual high-falutin' structuralist junk; I don't like The Hitcher because it isn't any fun. I loved the Biel-full remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, because it knew what it was: a flashy, tense chase sequence on a cushion of gore. The Hitcher can't decide whether it wants to be an action flick or a cat-and-mouse stalk picture or a revenge tragedy. Where the original skirts the edge of the slasher genre, the remake ducks in and out of cubby-holes like a retard driver. That's not a good thing; that's not "genre-bending." It's pure sloppy writing.

During those times when it decides it wants to be a thriller, The Hitcher is so poorly plotted that the tension just bleeds away. Our heroes (Bush and Knighton) meet up with some people; Sean Bean kills them. More people are met; Sean Bean kills them, too. The kids meet an entire police department; Sean Bean wreaks havoc upon them all, including shooting down their fucking helicopter. Then he kills them. The predictability ruins any chance at sustained intensity.

It doesn't help matters that the character motivations are well-blended and come out as a soup of ambiguous intention. John Ryder (Bean) receives a psychopaths justification for his actions, which works in the original, but falls flat here thanks to the clumsy attempts to engender the audience's sympathy for the devil. Introducing heady concepts such as externalization of suicidal tendencies, or the root of ethical (as opposed to moral) dilemmas, has the unfortunate effect of losing an audience. It draws light to the film's deficiencies, while allowing an avenue for the audience to get themselves distracted in completely different thoughts.

Poor guy was tossed out of the Arts and Crafts movement
for excessive creativity in choice of medium.

For its dumb action movie sequences, The Hitcher has much less that requires forgiveness. The car chase that closes out the second act, set to Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," is delightful cheese; and explosions a-plenty pepper the whole thing. It's a Frankenstein's monster aesthetic, with the stitches between different directorial moods clearly visible.

What I mean to say is that The Hitcher is kind of a butterface; there are portions of its body that bear ogling, but 'er face just doesn't fit, mostly because it's unclear what kind of face the public is supposed to see.

(Not you, Sean Bean. Don't you never change.)

"Hold me back another year, will they?"

The Package

The bonuses start up with a long list of deleted scenes. Most of these are the sort that give you a whole extra few frames of a corpse swinging, or a different angle of the telephone; but the alternate ending is actually worth watching for being quite a bit more brutal than anything leading up to it.

There are featurettes for behind-the-scenes info, and specifically for the stunts and FX required for the car chase I mentioned above. Pretty standard stuff.

There's also a fun and low-key background info on the makeup effects used for the ripping in half of a certain character by way of eighteen-wheelers.

The last bonus is actually one that I've often idly wished for: the full newsreels that play in the background during certain scenes. Usually, those pieces are shot as full reels, and then edited to fit the scene; now you can see the whole movie through the filter of a faux news network!

4 out of 10