Sean Bean as John Ryder
Sophia Bush as Grace Andrews
Zachary Knighton as Jim Halsey
Neal McDonough as Lieutenant Esteridge
Directed by Dave Meyers
This remake of the 1986 cult classic of the same name delivers some cheap scares and ample gore, but fails to muster any true excitement or suspense.
While on a routine road trip to meet some friends, two college aged lovers become pursued by a mysterious hitchhiker with deadly ambitions.
“The Hitcher” is the latest in a long line of horror remakes plaguing movie theaters. It teams token TV sex kitten Sophia Bush (“One Tree Hill”) with newcomer Zachary Knighton (an unconvincing doppelganger for “House of Wax” star and “Supernatural” heartthrob Jared Padalecki) and sends them on a road trip that’s destined to end in bloodshed. Sean Bean plays John Ryder, a vicious man on an unexplained mission to kill. When the young couple invite Ryder into their car for a quick ride to a nearby hotel, he traps them in a fairly mundane game of cat and mouse that’s as tired and clichéd as the expression “cat and mouse” itself.
This is a dull piece of horror schlock guaranteed to elicit plenty of titters from its audience and only a few valueless gasps of shock. There’s nearly a dozen times during the film’s brief 84 minute runtime when something menacing pops into frame from an off screen source. This cheap ploy is mildly unnerving, but by the third or fourth time it rolls around the audience has become so clued in to the movie’s tricks that it barely merits a jolt. The fright these moments create is simple, sudden, and short lived. It’s hard to find a really good scare or a genuine moment of suspense anywhere in this mixed bag of gimmicks.
The couple’s initial encounter with Ryder is staged with a believable and eerie intensity, but the film soon plummets into the abyss of implausibility. What starts out as an utterly disturbing invasion of personal space and betrayal of trust morphs into an on the run thriller full of surreal plot twists and grotesque violence. The movie’s edge gets quickly lost in the shuffle and it begins to feel like just another dumb blood and guts horror flick. By its end, it has become some ludicrous and bloodthirsty that nothing really matters anymore.
There is a kernel of truth imbedded in Sean Bean’s steely eyed performance as John Ryder, but it’s so underdeveloped and unused that even Bean’s best efforts go to waste. He makes John Ryder a charismatic creepster with a two sided demeanor that delivers both rough charm and unnerving intimidation. Unfortunately, we’re never given the opportunity to peak behind his haunted eyes and see the inner workings of a mad man. He plays mind games with his prey, but we never really sense an actual motive behind his cruelty. There are hints that he may have suffered a tragic past, but there is never really any concrete explanation for his interest in his sadistic pursuits. Had he been granted greater pathos, the film might have been able to carry itself more proudly as the ghastly portrait of a killer. Sadly, the filmmakers had no such interest in more complete storytelling. Instead we’re faced with an ugly and uninteresting splatterfest that plays out like a guidebook to horror movie clichés.
The Bottom Line:
Horror purists might consider this to be a messy good time and some nonserious viewers might enjoy it as a humorously awful gross out movie, but its cheap scares and thin narrative will not be worth the price of admission for most moviegoers.