The original 1986 horror/thriller movie ‘The Hitcher’ is fantastic. More importantly, it still stands up today. The film is not dated in anyway and you could put it on tonight and still enjoy it.; so, why the need for a remake? There isn’t one!
In the original movie, our protagonist, Jim Halsey (C.Thomas Howell), picks up hitch-hiker, John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) by the side of the desert road, while delivering a car from Chicago to California. Ryder turns out to be a psycho serial killer and threatens to kill Jim after a few moments of being in the car. C. Thomas Howell plays the part brilliantly, looking genuinely terrified, until he notices the passenger’s side door is open, he then kicks Ryder out of the car while speeding along, and thinks he’s home safe. Jim is very wrong though, and what continues through the film, is Ryder stalking Jim and setting him up for the murders that he is committing. It seems that Ryder has become obsessed with Jim and thinks he is the only one who can put a stop to his serial killing ways (due to him outwitting him, and getting away in the opening sequence).
There are several very memorable scenes in this classic horror; one of them being the scene where Jim finds a severed finger in with his chips/French fries, and another involves Nash (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Nash is a waitress who Jim stumbles upon in a road side café, after a while she believes Jim is innocent and decides to help him; creating a kind of un-spoken romance between the two. The scene involving Nash, is where Ryder has kidnapped her, has her tied up between two huge trucks, and is threatening to literally rip her apart unless Jim gets in the front truck with him, to talk him out of it. At this stage, the police are there, and obviously know that Jim is innocent. Ryder asks Jim to shoot him, but he refuses, saying that if he does, Ryder’s foot will slip off the clutch and kill Nash anyway. Obviously, Ryder is not pleased and slams down on the accelerator pedal, killing poor Nash in a very shocking moment.
The original film is very well done and went down well with audiences and critics. It creates a great frustration within the viewer, because the viewer knows that Jim is innocent, while the police pursue him, over and over.
This film is also set apart because it has a man as the main character, which is a rarity in horror films. There are some exceptions, for example Devon Sawa in ‘Final Destination’ (2000), and ‘Billy Warlock’ in ‘Society’ (1989).
There is also a very strong gay undertone running throughout the film. It can easily be read that Ryder is in love with Jim and that is why he pursues him so much. There are several scenes to back this up. The first one is at the start of the film, where Ryder has Jim captive in the car. They arrive at a police stop, and so Jim won’t cry out for help, Ryder puts his knife to Jim’s groin and his arm around his shoulder, the police-man at the stop then refers to them as a couple and to be on their way. The second is when the two characters are sat in a road-side diner, and Jim asks Ryder why he is pursuing him? Ryder simply replies that Jim should know, before licking two coins, and placing them on a terrified Jim’s closed eyes (an old burial ritual). The body language here is odd, with Ryder smiling and seemingly flirting. Another scene is where the police have captured Ryder and have him in an interrogation room, Jim is allowed in, and after a conversation Ryder smiles, and places his hand over Jims. Jim responds by spitting in his face, but Ryder then takes the spittle and wipes it over his face and into his mouth; inviting the theory that he wants to kiss Jim. The most powerful statement however, might be, that Ryder feels the need to kill Nash; Jim’s love interest, in a very cruel and sadistic manner.
Now we come to the remake (2007). It was produced by Michael Bay’s company – Platinum Dunes, which also produced the remakes of the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘The Amityville Horror’. They seem to love their remakes, those guy’s. Although, I thought that the ‘Texas’ remake was very good, and gave a very different spin on the original. ‘Amityville’ and ‘The Hitcher’ remakes are both terrible and deliver nothing new except more sex and gore.
Another classic reinterpreted (although not that much). This time, yet again the roles are reversed so that there is a female protagonist. This is completely unnecessary, and takes away part of the original film’s uniqueness. Both Ryder and Jim’s characters are here, but Jim is second to his newly introduced girlfriend, Grace Andrews, played by Sophia Bush, of ‘One Tree Hill’ fame. Ryder is played by ‘Sean Bean’, who usually a great actor, seems here to camp the part of Ryder up to the max.
The film also had an R rating because of the use of constant extreme verbal obscenities and increased violence. For example, in the original film we see Ryder in a car with a family; Jim tries to warn them but doesn’t succeed. He later finds the car covered in blood and vomits by the side of it. In the remake, we are shown exactly what Ryder has done to the family. Another example of unnecessary scenes is when Ryder gets into bed with Grace and tries to rape her. In the original, Ryder gets into bed with Nash, with only the intension of kidnapping her. Yet another example, is when, this time Jim is tied up between the two trucks and is being pulled viciously by Ryder. Unlike the original, we see Jim get ripped apart. This takes away a lot of the sympathy from the audience and just adds the ‘yuck’ factor. If we contrast it to the original when Nash is tied between the trucks, we feel more compassion for her. We are only shown shots of her face, crying out for help, and then finally only the knowledge of what has happened to her is given to the audience when Ryder steps on the gas.
This is just another example of a bad remake. The film was not changed enough to warrant a remake, and was simply given more sex and violence for a 2007 audience. The adding of the character ‘Grace’ was not needed, and took away from Ryder’s reason for following Jim. It looks to me like just another film, made simply for money. Why not just re-release the original film, as they did with the ‘Exorcist’?
If the remake has no fresh take on the original, then why bother? Avoid this remake at all costs! Do yourself a favour and just rent the 1987 version. Better acting, better plot, and not at all dated. Plus, you don’t have to be embarrassed watching it with your parents.