The brutally violent 1986 B-movie The Hitcher starred Rutger Hauer as a murderous roadside psychopath and C. Thomas Howell as the young motorist who gets caught up in a bloody cat-and-mouse game leading him to increasingly dark places. It earned an overnight reputation for its screenwriter, a Pittsburgh-born 25-year-old named Eric Red, whose story was blunt but fiendishly disturbing.
The filmmakers behind the 2007 remake — including producer Michael Bay, who’s lately become a teen-horror impresario by reviving franchises like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Amityville Horror — jettison the mano y mano storyline, casting miniskirted One Tree Hill star Sophia Bush in the lead role and consigning her hapless boyfriend (Zachary Knighton) to the same grisly fate as Jennifer Jason Leigh’s truckstop waitress in the original.
Top-billed Sean Bean plays out-of-control killer John Ryder with a deliciously sadistic grin on his face, but without the original film’s subtext of male bonding gone awry, nothing here has a shred of psychological resonance. All that’s left is a serial killer who tears through an entire county’s worth of State Police with a handgun and a bad attitude, some songs by Dave Matthews and Nine Inch Nails, and a couple of dumb college kids. D
Originally published in the White Plains Times, January 26, 2007