Horror films will always be around as long as films are around, because they're less expensive, making it easy to turn a profit in theatres or, if not theatres, DVD. Lately, many have been remaking horror classics and director Michael Bay ("Armageddon") is well aware of the fact. Bay has been acting as the producer for a series of horror remakes that have tried to captialize on their titles. It started with Bay's producing two "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remakes and will continue with a "Friday the 13th" sequel. As for the moment, we get "The Hitcher", a remake of a 1986 film of the same name.
The film focuses on college couple Grace (Sophia Bush) and Jim (Zachary Knighton), who head off on a Spring break road trip as the picture begins. Early on in the film, the couple reluctantly gives a lift to stranded John Ryder (Sean Bean), who quickly reveals himself to be a complete nut. Only due to some quick thinking do the couple eventually escape.
However, much like the T-1000 in "Terminator 2", Ryder somehow manages to persistently keep tracking them down as they try to flee across the desert. Things become a bit unbelivable as the cops become involved, as Ryder manages to take down what appears to be most of a police force. Director Dave Meyers manages a few good scares and creepy moments, but there's also some stretches here-and-there during the middle that start to feel a little repetitive.
The characters are about as thinly developed as one might expect, but I did at least like the performances. Bean makes a surprisingly scary villain, while Bush and Knighton do reasonably well with characters that are fairly one-dimensional. As with Bay's remake of "Texas Chainsaw" (where Jessica Biel played the strong heroine), Bush is set-up as the main hero here, with Knighton moved further and further to the background.
Slickly shot by music video director Dave Meyers and cinematographer James Hawkinson (both making their feature debuts after long music video backgrounds), "The Hitcher"'s visuals make the often gorgeous landscape seem endless and oppressive.
Overall, this is still an unnecessary remake that isn't going to go down as a classic. However, in an age of some terrible horror remakes like "The Fog" and "When a Stranger Calls", the fact that "The Hitcher" does at least offer some moderately enjoyable performances and a few good scares does put it above the rest of the recent pack.
VIDEO: "The Hitcher" is presented by Universal in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality, aside from a few slight concerns, is certainly top-notch. Sharpness and detail remained exceptional throughout much of the program, with small object detail often remaining impressive.
The presentation did show some slight edge enhancement, but no instances of artifacting or print flaws were spotted. Colors remained bold and rich throughout, with nice saturation and no smearing. Black level also remained strong, as well.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation wasn't always a knockout, but it did have its more aggressive moments, such as during the film's few car crash scenes (some of which are impressively staged, especially considering the film's small budget.) Audio quality is fine, with punchy effects and clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: Four featurettes ("Road Kill: The Ultimate Car Crash", "Fuel Your Fear: The Making of 'The Hitcher'", "Dead End" and "Chronicles of a Killer") and deleted scenes.
Final Thoughts:Overall, this is still an unnecessary remake that isn't going to go down as a classic. However, in an age of some terrible horror remakes like "The Fog" and "When a Stranger Calls", the fact that "The Hitcher" does at least offer some moderately enjoyable performances and a few good scares does put it above the rest of the recent horror pack. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extrras. Rent it.
The Film C+