Having seemingly exhausted cinema's canon of classic horror movies and cult favorites in their endless remaking spree, studios have now moved on to reprising half-forgotten slasher films and perfunctory genre exercises. Case in point: The Hitcher, a not-screened-for-critics, Michael Bay-produced remake of a mediocre 1986 slasher movie. Somehow, music-video veteran David Meyers fails to hurtle this project into the pantheon of great horror movies.
Near Dark screenwriter Eric Red—who wrote the original Hitcher and co-wrote this remake—at least came up with a nifty little premise that ruthlessly exploits fears about the untold horrors of the open road, as well as every campfire tale and urban legend about sinister hitchhikers whose bloodlust outweighs their need for temporary transportation. In both films, a callow young couple picks up a sinister hitchhiker (Rutger Hauer in the original, Sean Bean here) who rewards their generosity with a killing spree that segues into a deadly (and deadly dull) game of cat and mouse. Bean turns out to be a sociopathic, superhuman killing machine who can take out a helicopter from a hundred feet or kill a good chunk of New Mexico's police force, but has a devil of a time wiping out two whiny, petulant college kids.
In his feature-film debut, Meyers delivers a steady stream of cheap jolts and something-popping-unexpectedly-into-frame scares, but little tension or atmosphere. Like the original, The Hitcher is notable mainly for its stomach-churning gore (the filmmakers must have purchased their fake blood in industrial quantities), and for an ugly setpiece involving a character being ripped in half, which gives new meaning to the film's title. The filmmakers have it both ways with the microskirt-clad Bush: She's constantly ogled eye-candy, yet also a strong-willed avenger. Alas, her barely there clothing is the only memorable part of a derivative plugger that's bound to evaporate from the audience's consciousness even before it ends.