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  Hitcher, The Horror Highway
Year: 2007
Director: Dave Meyers
Stars: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Neal McDonough, Kyle Davis, Skip O'Brien, Travis Schuldt, Danny Bolero, Jeffrey Hutchinson, Yara Martinez, Lauren Cohn
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Grace (Sophia Bush) is picked up by her boyfriend Jim (Zachary Knighton) from college, and they set off on their road trip across New Mexico to her home, where she hopes they will spend Spring Break with her friends, who Jim has never met. It's an uneventful journey until night falls, and a heavy shower of rain makes driving conditions a little more hazardous - so that when a man appears in the middle of the road, Jim is forced into a skid that gives them both a shock. The man (Sean Bean) appears to have suffered a vehicle breakdown, but Jim speeds off before he can approach...

Which of course only serves to interest the man in the couple, and so begins yet another of those horror remakes that arrived in the twenty-first century when the genre was labouring under a serious lack of inspiration, and the only motivation for Hollywood to churn out more shockers was the possibility of making more money out of recognisable names. One of those companies with both eyes on the box office was action specialist Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes, and they went remake crazy, apparently deigning every chiller with any kind of a following fair game for the reboot treatment.

So it was that the cult favourite from 1986 The Hitcher came under their avaricious gaze, and their formula went into effect. The original was a genuinely tense and enjoyable tale of a killer and his quarry who may not be out to murder our hero at all, and has other motives for hunting him down; psychologically, it was something Alfred Hitchcock himself would have appreciated, and Eric Red's clever screenplay went some way contributing to that suspense. Here, on the other hand, it was the same old story as far as these things went, with everything fitting the template that had proven itself as a cash machine with the mininum of inspiration.

In this, instead of C. Thomas Howell alone in the world until he meets an ally in Jennifer Jason Leigh's diner waitress, the couple were already established, so for a start the sense of a pair of characters getting to know each other in extraordinary circumstances went out the window, and looked more to do with focus groups than innovative screenwriting. They have almost no discernable personailty other than what you'd expect, so that the relationship the original Hitcher had with his obsession was jettisoned to leave the drama superficial at best. As long as they crowbarred in the jump moments, then that was all director Dave Meyers cared about, and you could see those coming a mile away.

Sean Bean crucially lacked that quality that Rutger Hauer had of forcing us to wonder what on earth was going on in his head, so this villain had no depth, and the almost supernatural menace he should have contained merely had the audience contemplating where he could possibly have found all those cars and guns, of which he had a bafflingly ready supply. The best bits of this were all from the first one: the soft toy in the back of the car, the police station where the Hitcher wipes out all the officers, but even then they were fumbled. You can of course take solace in the fact that if you're a fan of the source, it stays out there and you can visit it any time you want, but that didn't change the ill-feeling towards a work that emulated it without understanding why it had been so memorable to so many horror fans. If it were not for the gore, this Hitcher might as well have been a slick, empty TV movie. Music by Steve Jablonsky.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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