If there’s anything that’s worse than a January released film, it’s an unnecessary remake of a classic film that’s released in January. Thus we have the Rogue Pictures film The Hitcher, which somehow has managed to make me enjoy and miss the original, even though I’ve previously stated that I didn’t much care for it. Ironically, that was also because of this film. It’s certainly not a film I’m proud of admitting having seen twice now, let alone even once. I was definitely more foolish in my film selections than I am now. While it’s great to see that I was right in bemoaning the fact that this film was a remake, it’s now become even sadder as this film definitely doesn’t hold up after a decade, and probably won’t after another five years. Consider this your first and last warning.
Remake In America
The problem with #remakes isn’t that they’re remakes, although that certainly doesn’t help in the majority of instances, it’s that they’re seldom good. Nothing new is ever done and the final product ends up being far more inferior to the original, which only makes me wonder why it was attempted at all. Sadly, this outcome seems to befall #horror films more than any other type of film, at least that I’ve seen. Making things worse for this particular entry in the horror remake category, is the fact that it came out when it did. At the time, the mid-2000s, there was a big horror remake craze just getting started. Sadly that craze lasted until 2010. Remakes of all sorts were seen in large quantities, ranging from four to 10 films per year. Fortunately for this film, it’s not based off of some foreign language film, particularly an Asian horror film. Those were even worse. However, it did suffer from another horror trend at that time, which I’ll return to in a moment.
With this film being a remake, all I saw were the same sequences from the original being recreated with new actors. I guess it doesn’t help that the original film’s writer, Eric Red, decided to come back and be part of this remake. I’m not sure which is worse, a remake with new and terrible writers, or one that includes the original writer. So far with remakes, the only other instance of this is with the 2007 film Funny Games, which is still just as baffling. If you wanted to ruin your own original work, I think a sequel would’ve sufficed. Sadly here, the fact that there’s also two other writers, probably didn’t help either. I find that films with more than two writers seldom succeed. Granted, those films could’ve just been badly done in every way possible. But that’s not the case here. Here, there’s just no ounce of originality and no depth to any of the characters. Bland is what you asked for, and bland is what you got. It’s a remake after all, and the type of film that was never aiming for anything deep involving the characters. They pretty much just move through each minute, each situation, without so much as an intelligent thought. That’s another problem with remakes and horror films of this sort, among the numerous.
Torture Porn. That was the trend that was also picking up steam in the mid-2000s. The torture porn sub-genre of horror films started, most likely, with a little indie film called Saw. While that film was much more restrained when it came to gratuitous blood and gore, most of its sequels were not. This ushered in a wave of films that filmmakers thought needed to be done to the extreme. Talk about turning things up to 11. Films like The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, Black Christmas and My Bloody Valentine were all done with the intent of grossing out the audience. That’s it. There was pretty much no other purpose, especially as what could’ve been scary, in another person’s hands, in the end, ended up being lazy and wasteful. Like jump scares (see below).
This film might not achieve the unnecessary and distracting levels of gratuitous blood and gore, but it certainly comes close and still proves to be wasteful. If there was a moment for blood and gore, it was taken. Even the rabbit that’s hit by a car and the bug that gets squished on the windshield must be shown with guts and blood as if somehow that’s appealing. Cops were mercilessly killed, innocent people slaughtered and more cops killed! I wasn’t so much bothered by it, in terms of having a gut reaction, but I was surprised. I guess I’d just forgotten how obnoxious it all could be. The primary moment, which was done just because it could be, was when Zachary Knighton’s character gets ripped in half (above picture). I won’t even pretend I debated on whether or not to mention that spoiler. He swaps places with Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character from the original film, however, that’s where the similarities end. Her death wasn’t shown, but more built up as tension and suspense, and then executed when you really thought it wouldn’t happen. It’s also because of that scene from the original that I couldn’t be moved by Knighton’s death at all. Point in fact, I wanted him dead. I wanted Sophia Bush’s character dead too. They were too annoying and stupid and weren’t remotely worth saving. They were just another set of characters who only managed to survive because of sheer dumb luck, and the sudden need to survive.
A Bit Jumpy
This film clearly doesn’t (didn’t) need anything else to make it awful, yet that’s exactly what it got saddled with. A staple of the majority of horror films is the jump scare. The difference, however, is that some can actually utilize it well. You’re not jumping all of a sudden because it was noted in the script and is otherwise lazy. In those select films, of which there have been some pretty stellar ones these past few years, but still too few to really say there’s a major resurgence in horror, the creators knew how to control tension and suspense, build fear and make you actually dread what could happen next. That kind of control is still so lost on so many. This could very well be where having three writers was the wrong move.
Or it could just be the downside of trying to remake a film that didn’t really offer you all that much to begin with. I’d say the one upside with the original film, is what it might’ve achieved. It played on people’s fears. Think along the lines of what Psycho did for showers. A different time means a different kind of response. Nowadays, I don’t actually think many people pick up hitchhikers on the sides of roads in the middle of nowhere. If they did, they’d probably be able to avoid the first jump scare of the film. An uninspired number where Knighton, who isn’t paying attention, almost hits Sean Bean with the car he’s terrible at driving. How many times has that been done? Here’s another one for you to roll your eyes at. Upon discovering the inevitable, the family’s car on the side of the road, as Knighton’s checking it out to see if anyone’s alive, a bloody hand slams into the window. Jump! Or the car that fell off a cliff, which is somehow there above the main road, which our protagonists happen to be walking on. I’m not even going to think about that one too much. They just happen. Out of nowhere, which I get is sort of the point behind jump scares, but they’re bad and don’t deserve for anyone to jump. Well, maybe the idiot characters. They started all this.
But, just like all of the idiot characters in this film, including the cops whom you’d think would be smarter, the writers wanted to just turn out the laziest piece of shit imaginable. Another commonality between most horror films that came along at that time, and audiences ate them up! How could we all be so stupid? While a lot’s happened in the past 10 years, we’re still offered up remakes when we should be getting original content. If anything can be considered an upside of this film being made, and all the others that came after it, it’s that that may mean there are so few other horror films to remake. The list may finally have been exhausted.
That may be a pipe dream for sure, but for now, I'll take it!
The pretty awful, almost spoiler-y trailer:
Director: Dave Meyers
Writers: Eric Red, Jake Wade Wall and Eric Bernt
Starring: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton and Neal McDonough