Sunday, August 22, 2010

Review: The Hitcher (2007)

HorrorScope has seen fit to let me visit one of the older horror/thrillers of the past few years. The Hitcher was released in 2007 and is a re-make of the classic 1986 film of the same name.

It came at a time when re-makes were still a relative novelty … and seems an age ago now in terms of film-making. When viewing it, do not expect to see many similarities with its previous incarnation. This is a film that is aimed primarily at a new generation coming through … and ultimately suffers for it.

We are in comforting and familiar territory with the plot: College students Jim and Grace are on a jaunt across the United States and en route encounter the hitch-hiker who calls himself John Ryder. After initially refusing to stop, they later encounter him at a gas station and there follows a nightmare journey with the psychopath.

Things are promising at the beginning: the audience is in hackneyed territory but knows this. The Highway is a like a character – a haunted wasteland that is a playground for anything malign to find a home and go un-noticed. There is no mystery about our villain; he is unmasked in all his glory, and talented actor Sean Bean has no trouble bringing to life the vapid stance of a detached executioner. In what is perhaps a small nod to the first film, there is an undeniable gritty attention to the colors and camera-focus.  

But things quickly fall apart with lazy dialogue and unrealistic scenarios that couldn’t possibly happen … even suspending disbelief for the sake of celluloid. I won’t go into these, but at times it felt like I was reading the screenplay – a huge warning bell going off that the director’s vision was not enough to curtail what is, at its core, a bad script.

There are encouraging sign-posts: jump moments are everywhere, enough to keep you interested … and it’s the type of horror that takes no prisoners about whom is dispatched or how. The ‘game’ John Ryder is playing intrigues us, for his toying levels go beyond mere play into something else altogether. A thumping soundtrack is with us every step of the way - it sounds like the throb of a heart or the whir of a truck and intelligently mirrors the ‘highway-artery’ theme of the whole endeavor.

Unfortunately, in the end, the clich├ęd ‘horror film’ behavior of those being toyed is enough to have us praying for their demise. Although by no means a complete loss, keep this one for a Saturday night marathon when all the quality has been exhausted.   

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