Grace (Sophia Bush) and Jim (Zachary Knighton) are your average college students. They love each other and with the arrival of Spring Break, they want nothing more than to spend a week down in Mexico with their friends. Leaving their campus, everything is progressing smoothly until they nearly run over a man who simply wants a ride to the nearest motel. They speed off thinking they obviously shouldn’t pick up any stranger, especially in the pouring rain. Once they arrive at the nearest gas station, they’re shocked to…find out that the same man they didn’t pick up has just arrived at the gas station after receiving a ride. Now comes the fun part. The man asks Jim for a ride and, for some reason, Jim can’t refuse. Enter your midnight psycho who calls himself John Ryder (Sean Bean) who decides to torture these folks and you have yourself a decent remake of the 1986 classic.
As I just mentioned, this film is a remake of the 1986 film of the same name by Rutger Hauer. This film was clever and downright horrifying. You had the similar psycho killer who simply wanted to play a few mind games with our two lead characters. But where the 1986 film had a few twists and actual real horror that felt, well, real, this 2007 remake lacks everything that made the original so good.
The first problem I had is that even though Sean Bean is a great actor, he felt out of place in this role. Sure he was scary at times, even causing myself to jump a bit, he just didn’t completely cut it in the psycho killer role. As he torments our two lead characters, I kept thinking back to the film Joyride, which shares a similar plot with our lead characters being chased and tormented throughout the film. Bean tries to bring that snug, tough quality to the role, but he never truly made me believe like he could ever be a killer. When it comes to our lead characters, both did a serviceable job I suppose given the material they had. Knighton as Jim tried to show true hero qualities as he risked his life to save Grace. But the problem again was that Jim felt no different from the standard boyfriend hero character in the typical thriller. As for Bush as Grace, I still can’t get over the fact that she goes into a dark room, where the killer was a few moments before, and screams that she has a gun. Seriously now, who ACTUALLY does this?
The biggest inherent problem with The Hitcher is that it basically played out like every other horror remake. While the original horror films had true scares and true sequences of horror, all the remakes suffer from the same quality of dry scares (for the most part) and an over abundance of blood.
Despite these problems, The Hitcher will have the audience that will love the film. I guess I could have loved the film, but the problem was that I had seen the original giving myself a backdrop to compare the film against. If you’ve seen the original, you’ll probably come out thinking like myself that this one was a decent remake. Otherwise, you’ll find a lot to like in The Hitcher as it has the scares, sex appeal and a somewhat convincing killer.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 2:40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, The Hitcher doesn’t far as high as some of Universal’s recent new titles, but still looks pretty damn good.
Color usage felt real throughout as the film boasted crisp blacks and solid blues. Detail was also quiet impressive with a true sense of ‘you’re there’ quality as you could make out the little details including hairs, grass and rain droplets. Grain was kept to a minimum, which is especially impressive when you consider how ‘dark’ the film is. The only fault I have here is that some of the films overly abundant use of blood looked rather odd. The blood almost looked like red paint as it spurted out of character after character instead of looking somewhat real. Otherwise from this (and this is myself being picky), this is a solid transfer.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, The Hitcher might not be the first film you’d grab for a demo, but you’ll come out surprised at the quality of this soundtrack.
Dialogue was reciprocated in a clean and clear manner never becoming muddled or hard to understand. Dynamic Range was impressive throughout adding a real sense of horror to our ears. The film’s soundstage was also well produced as the rears and front channels balanced each other never becoming overly pushy or pumped up too high. Take a look at the highway chase where Ryder chases Jim and Grace. The soundstage was quite active here as guns shots and screams rang throughout the room. The only problem I had here was that some of the film’s bass felt rather bland. I expected a bit more punch and oomph out of the sub, but nothing ever came through. I’m the type of guy that likes bass as it adds a nice quality to the film. Otherwise from that, the audio isn’t as good as the picture, but still is pretty impressive.
- Dead-End: This 12 minute feature follows of the film’s effect dummies during one of the more gruesome sequences.
- Chronicles of a Killer: This feature runs like a type of news broadcast as we got a few news updates about the various killings that took place in the film.
- Deleted Scenes/Alternate Ending: Now this Alternate Ending, literally, is 10-15 seconds different. I obviously don’t want to give away the ending, but I felt kind of ripped off here especially when they described it as ‘too terrifying for the theaters’. As for the Deleted Scenes, most were extensions and, honestly, aren’t worth seeing unless you’re a diehard fan.
- Roadkill: At 9 minutes in length, this one covers the varying vehicle stunts in the film.
- Fuel Your Fear: This last basic feature features a few interviews with director David Myers as he discusses the idea behind remaking the film.
- U-Control: Universal gives another new titles the U-Control feature this time giving The Hitcher a picture-in-picture option. Running like a basic video commentary, we get information about the making of the film, casting, stunts and the film’s effects. Like most commentaries, the cast can’t seem to stop praising each other as if they’re the Second Coming. Since I wasn’t the biggest fan of the film, I expect only the biggest diehards will want to watch this one.
HD DVD Exclusives
In the end, The Hitcher will only appeal to those in the highest sense if you haven’t seen the original. If you have, go in with an open mind and you won’t come out completely disappointed. As an HD DVD release, Universal has given us nearly perfect picture with great audio and a few interesting features. Fans will want to pick this one up but the rest of you should give this one a rental, especially if you’re not a big horror fan.
Special Features List
- Chronicles of a Killer
- Deleted Scenes/Alternate Ending
- Fuel Your Fear