Sunday, November 15, 2009

Very Brief Thoughts on The Hitcher

Very Brief Thought #1: Did the term "hitcher" exist before the original 1986 Hauer/Howell opus? Is it supposed to sound somehow more dreadful and soul-chilling than "the hitchhiker"? Did the fact that there had already been several films and television shows entitled The Hitchhiker induce screenwriter Eric Red to contrive a phony bit of slang in order to distinguish his by-the-numbers stalker wank? Or did he just not like those two Hs right next to each other? In any case, the public was saved from entering into the 2007 remake thinking that they were seeing a retread of Ida Lupino's 1953 film The Hitch-Hiker, and for that we must be grateful.
Very Brief Thought #2: When John Ryder (Sean Bean), the Hitcher himself, first catches a ride with our young college student heroes Jim (Zachary Knighton) and Grace (Sophia Bush), Grace moves to the back seat of the car and cranks her iPod, leaving Ryder and Jim to chat in peace. Ryder asks where the young couple is heading, and Jim says "Spring Break, in Lake Havasu." Doesn't this revelation ensure that we, the audience, will hope desperately for their lives to quickly end in blood and horror? That was my reaction (my wish was only half granted), though I noticed that the script slid towards unreality when Ryder then inappropriately asks Jim how long he's been fucking Grace, and Jim reacts as a normal, decent person would by becoming offended and disturbed. In reality, a guy like him would have said, "Oh, eight or nine months. I'm also banging her sister. You know, whatever whatever."
Very Brief Thought #3: At the end, Jim having been ripped in half and the police proving entirely ineffective, it falls on Grace to end Ryder's reign of terror. Ryder has been captured by the police, but manages to slaughter all the cops in the police van, and causing the car behind him, which is occupied by Grace and Lt. Estridge (Neal McDonough, who I like, and who looks completely embarrassed throughout) to crash. Estridge is trapped, but Grace, with grim resolve, is able to extract herself, with the clear intent of taking Ryder down. "You don't know what you're doing!" Estridge warns her. "Yes I do," Grace responds, while holding a gun or something. The thing is, though, she has no idea what she's doing, and all she manages to do is to suck long enough for Ryder to kill Estridge, and then wait until Ryder very deliberately presents himself to her as a sacrifice. The audience knows he wants to die, so Grace's Sarah Connor act doesn't fly at all. The fact that, by this point, we're desperate to see her get murdered with a hammer doesn't help to cement our rooting interest in her success. But the movie's over now, and I never have to see it again. Also, sorry, Sean Bean.


Greg said...

Sounds good, thanks for the recommendation.

Uncle Gustav said...
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John said...

Ah, c'mon. The first one was kinda fun, in a laughably over-the-top but still pretty sinister kind of way.

I'd almost forgotten they'd remade it, though. Of course, I'd be TOTALLY shocked to discover that the remake lacks everything that made the original sinister but maximizes the laughable-ness, as it sounds like this one has.

bill r. said...

Greg - When I was watching this, I thought "Greg would LOVE this movie!" I know you so well.

John - Maybe I was too hard on the original film, but only because it's been so long since I've seen it. I certainly don't remember liking it much, but if I saw it again, maybe I would. That certainly wouldn't be the first time. But I've seen three (three and a half, if you count this remake) films written by Eric Red, and I didn't like any of them. This includes NEAR DARK.

John said...

Yeah, I'm not crazy about Near Dark either, and what works in these movies owes much more to the quality of the direction or the cinematography or other stylistic elements, interesting actors, subdued use of an eerie soundtrack, etc (all things that pretty much every remake these days tends to neglect).

Red also wrote one of the most unbelievably stupid "original" horror movies I've seen lately (no shortage of them either) called "100 Feet". That one was so ridiculous no amount of skill at work elsewhere behind the camera could have redeemed it (though, to be fair, there wasn't much evidence of that, either).