Cody and Priscilla hit the road with The Hitcher 1986 and 2007.
THE HITCHER (1986)
Priscilla and I have been planning to cover The Hitcher movies as part of our Remake Comparison Project for a while now. Despite our geographical distance, she and I have actually watched both movies together in person, and since we just watched the remake during my trip to Brazil at the end of last month, this seemed like the right time to get around to them. As it turns out, the timing of this article was even more perfect than we realized at first, as last April 30th we were talking about a movie that has a connection to these ones...
In the early 1980s, a young aspiring filmmaker named Eric Red was on a cross country road trip when the song "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors happened to come on the radio. While listening to the song, which is backed by the sound of thunder and pouring rain and includes lines like "There's a killer on the road / His brain is squirmin' like a toad" and "If you give this man a ride / Sweet memory will die", Red had the idea for the story that would become The Hitcher.
The draft of the script that Red got into the hands of the film's eventual producers needed some work, as it was 190 pages long and packed with detailed, gory death scenes that went too far for its readers. Over subsequent drafts, Red was able to scale it down, and the producers ensured the film wouldn't be a bloodbath by hiring a director who wanted to take a Hitchcockian approach of suspense and mostly implied violence. That director was Robert Harmon, who had previously worked as a cinematographer as well as a still photographer on such movies as Tourist Trap, Roller Boogie, and Hell Night. Not only was The Hitcher the first produced screenplay for Eric Red, it was also Robert Harmon's feature directorial debut.
C. Thomas Howell stars as Jim Halsey, a young man on a cross country road trip, delivering a car from Chicago, Illinois to San Diego, California. Driving through the desert somewhere in the vicinity of El Paso, Texas in the middle of the night, Jim is having trouble staying awake. He tries smoking a cigarette, turns on the radio and tunes it to a farm and market report, but still nods off and almost gets in a head-on collision.
Aided by a wonderful synth score by Mark Isham, Harmon establishes the film's mood and tone right up front. It's dark but meditative, almost dreamlike. Aside from the radio chatter, there's no dialogue for the first four and a half minutes, it's just Jim driving.
A storm rolls in. Thunder rumbles, lightning flashes, rain starts pouring down. Jim sees a man in a trenchcoat standing on the side of the road, sticking out a thumb. The titular hitcher.
The "Riders on the Storm" influence is evident in the weather conditions.
Not only will giving the guy a ride get him out of the rain, having company will also help Jim stay awake, so despite the fact that his mother told him never to pick up hitchhikers, he pulls over and lets the guy into the car.
If only Jim had listened to his mother.
Enter Rutger Hauer as a character who introduces himself to Jim as John Ryder. It quickly becomes clear that Ryder is a very strange guy. He doesn't answer questions, he just deflects. When the car reaches a car parked on the side of the road, a VW Beetle that passed Jim earlier, Ryder grabs Jim's leg and pushes it down on the gas to make him speed past it.
Ryder is scary from the start. I feel like it actually took Jim a while to realize something was definitely off with the guy. In those first few scenes Jim acts really naive. Takes a little bit for him to run out of patience.
Ryder's behavior is enough to get Jim to pull over and attempt to kick him out of the car, but Ryder calmly refuses to get out. When Jim asks what was wrong with the VW, Ryder finally answers a question: "I ran out of gas." So Jim agrees to take him to a gas station. And yet, as soon as Jim is driving again, Ryder becomes openly antagonistic, saying he would get cigarettes at a gas station, he doesn't need gas. The VW wasn't his car, the driver just gave him a ride... and then Ryder killed him, cutting off his head and limbs. And, he tells Jim, "I'm gonna do the same to you."
Jim still doesn't seem to be all that phased about it.
When the car reaches a construction zone, Ryder pulls out a switchblade to keep Jim from asking for help. Noticing the car's Illinois license plates, a road worker with a wife from Rockford tries to chat with Jim, but Ryder creeps the guy out by putting his hand on Jim's crotch.
As the ride continues, Ryder holds the knife in Jim's face, speaking of things like punctured eyeballs and slit throats. Jim asks him what he wants and Ryder answers, "I want you to stop me." If Jim won't stop him, he only wants him to do one other thing; say "I want to die." Ryder forces Jim to say it, one word at a time. Before he can say "Die", Jim sees salvation. Ryder's door is ajar. Yelling "I don't want to die!", Jim shoves Ryder away, against the passenger door. The door opens and Ryder tumbles out into the road as Jim drives on.
Finally! Up till now, we don't really know what Jim is capable of, and it's in some ways a relief to see that he can fight back.
I love how tense those first scenes are. The suspense and mystery surrounding Ryder - who is he and what is his next move going to be - couldn't have worked better with the already very dark tone of the movie.
These first 13 minutes really work as a great mini-movie on their own. I feel like even if The Hitcher wasn't as good for the rest of its running time, it already would've earned cult classic status with this sequence alone, sort of like how the original When a Stranger Calls remained popular due to its opening sequence. Luckily, the rest of The Hitcher holds up better than the rest of When a Stranger Calls.
Night becomes day and Ryder catches up with Jim in the very next scene, having been picked up by a family of four in a station wagon. Ryder appears to have made great friends with the two children, telling them to shoot Jim with their toy guns and even kissing one on the head. Jim pulls up beside the station wagon and desperately tries to get the parents to pull the car over.
People picking up strangers on the side of the road has always been a very confusing thought to me, but doing so with children in the car is something else.
I remember watching this scene for the first time very vividly. I was a kid, and my parents were watching the movie as well, and they reacted loudly to it. Seeing that psycho with the cute little kids was too much for my parents. I'm glad they didn't show what was left of the children.
As Jim tells the parents that Ryder is a nut, he looks like a nut himself. Then he narrowly avoids colliding with a bus going in the other direction. It clips the back of the car and sends him off the road.
How could they not hear what he was saying? His window was down, they rolled theirs down as well, and he said it very clearly, and a bunch of times. I'm not sure it would've changed things much, if at all, but I feel like they should've been able to understand Jim.
The station wagon continues on, and Jim drives away the scene of the accident to try to catch up with them. When Jim reaches the station wagon, it's parked half on and half off the road. He approaches the vehicle and looks in... Harmon doesn't show the audience what Jim sees, but there's blood dripping from the back door and whatever is inside the vehicle is enough to make Jim puke.
Apparently every murder Ryder commits was described in the original script. The way Harmon shows things, staying with Jim at all times, is much more effective.
I'm glad they didn't show it, for the sake of my parents, but imagining what he saw can be even worse. I agree that it is more effective.
Jim seeks help at an old, seemingly abandoned gas station. There's no one around. The pay phone he finds doesn't work. Then Ryder is there, standing right in front of him. The men exchange no words, Ryder just tosses Jim's car keys at his feet and walks out, getting in the passenger side of a pickup truck that drives him away.
Seems very easy for Ryder to find people willing to give him a ride.
Jim gets back on the road, and before long Ryder is trying to run him off the road, driving the pickup truck with its real owner nowhere to be seen. Ryder leaves Jim alone long enough for him to stop at another gas station, but this one's locked up. He can't reach the pay phone.
These days, in the age of internet connected cell phones, a person almost always has some kind of tether to their comfort zone no matter where they are. I can only imagine how hopeless and afraid Jim must feel while looking for a way to get in contact with somebody.
Jim is very lonely through most of the movie. The position/state of mind Ryder puts him in is very isolated. Speaking of isolated, Cody's right. That would never happen these days, and while it's good in reality, it's not great for movies. It's really rare for anything and anyone to feel that remote and/or alone at all in movies anymore.
Ryder's pickup comes smashing through the auto shop door and plows over the gas pumps, knocking Jim to the ground as gasoline starts spraying all over. Ryder stops and tosses a lit match. Jim's car catches on fire, but he still manages to speed away as the gas station explodes.
The car's real owner isn't going to be happy about all this damage.
I keep thinking about that. I hope they were insured.
The next opportunity for Jim to seek help is at the Longhorn Restaurant, which isn't officially open for the day yet, but there is an employee there who Jim talks into letting him in. A young woman named Nash, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Nash is very nice and trusting. Working at a place like that, in the middle of nowhere, should've given her a thicker skin by now, but it hasn't.
Jim calls the police, then goes into the restroom to wash up. When he comes out, Nash has a burger and fries waiting for him. It will probably take around 45 minutes for the cops to get to the restaurant, so Jim sits down and eats while Nash unsuccessfully tries to have a conversation with him. He's too preoccupied, so she goes off to do some work... and that's when Jim finds a surprise left among his fries by Ryder.
The burger and fries look so good... until one of the fries turns out to be something else. I also remember being freaked out about this scene watching the movie as a child. It didn't make me love fries any less though.
State troopers Donner and Dodge arrive at the restaurant and immediately start treating Jim like a dangerous criminal, even firing a warning shot to get him to comply with their orders.
Dodge is played by an actor named Eugene "Gene" Davis. Pri, don't we know Gene Davis from somewhere?
Oh my, it's Warren Stacy from 10 to Midnight! I was so surprised to see Mr. Pedro himself as Trooper Dodge. It had been years since I watched The Hitcher '86, and I didn't know who Gene Davis was at all back then. Too bad he's only in a few scenes.
At some point, Ryder managed to remove Jim's wallet from his jacket pocket and replace it with his bloody switchblade. When the troopers discover that, they slam him down hard onto the hood of their patrol car, cuff him, and haul him away.
Watch for this when the troopers slam Jim down - somehow one of C. Thomas Howell's legs flies so far up behind him that his foot hits Gene Davis in the back of the head.
I saw that and pointed it out when we watched the movie together a few months ago and had to rewind it. It's a very weird, yet funny moment.
At the police station, Jim is questioned by Donner, Dodge, and Sergeant Starr, and is unable to reach anyone who can back up his story. The driveaway company he got the car from is closed for the weekend, his brother isn't home. Still, Starr feels that any fool could see that Jim isn't a killer.
Jim has to spend a day in a cell to wait for some authorities who are coming up from Austin to speak with him. He falls asleep and dreams of the moment he decided to give John Ryder a ride.
More than being blamed for all the horrific crimes Ryder committed, by now Ryder's so completely inside Jim's head that the mental abuse seems worse, and almost unbearable.
When Jim wakes up, there's something off about the station. His cell door is unlocked. A phone rings, unanswered. A police dog wanders the halls on its own. Jim follows the dog into the main room, where he finds it licking the blood off the dead Starr's slit throat. The corpses of Donner and Dodge are nearby. As other police arrive, Jim takes Donner's gun and runs off into the desert.
He eventually reaches another old gas station, and this one has a phone booth. Before he can make a call, a patrol car containing troopers Prestone and Conners arrives on the scene. Pulling Donner's gun, Jim charges out of the phone booth and carjacks the two cops, having Prestone handcuff Conners. The two cops get in the front seat, Jim gets in the back and forces Prestone to drive at gunpoint.
While Prestone drives, Jim uses the CB to get in contact with the man who is now in charge of this situation, Jeffrey DeMunn (The Blob 1988) as Captain Esteridge. Promising to make sure Jim is treated fairly, Esteridge talks him into surrendering and having Prestone take him in.
Just as Jim and Esteridge have sealed the deal, Ryder speeds up beside the patrol car in the pickup truck and shoots Prestone and Conners to death.
Since Jim is actually with these characters as they're killed, they're the movie's first on screen murders, and Harmon doesn't shy away from the blood spray.
Jim manages to keep the car from crashing, then he's back out in the desert, screaming and crying. The situation seems so hopeless that he even contemplates suicide, putting the gun to his chin.
Continuing on, Jim finds himself at Roy's Cafe. Noticing how rough and filthy Jim looks, the man behind the counter asks him what happened. Jim says "Nothing happened", orders coffee, and sits down in a booth. When the man goes back into the kitchen, Ryder sits down across from Jim.
Ryder asks, "How do you like Shitsville?" Jim responds by pulling out Donner's gun and aiming it at Ryder under the table. Ryder isn't concerned. That gun is empty. Jim never checked it. Ryder pretends to have a gun under the table, too. He's actually just pointing his finger at Jim, but he manages to freak Jim out so badly that he starts pulling the trigger on the gun... It is empty.
And you can tell by Jim's facial expressions that C. Thomas Howell was absolutely terrified. For real.
Jim asks Ryder why he's doing this to him. While licking pennies and sticking them on Jim's eyes, referencing Greek mythology and the practice of putting coins on the eyes of the dead so they can pay the ferryman to get across the river Styx in the afterlife, Ryder tells him to figure it out for himself.
Ryder exits, leaving behind a gift for Jim. Bullets.
A bus pulls in and after the passengers have gotten off, Jim gets on and loads his gun in the restroom. Soon the passengers return and the bus drives away from the cafe, followed by Ryder's pickup truck.
One of the passengers on the bus is Nash, taking the bus home from work. Jim tries to tell her what's been going on, that he's innocent, but she doesn't seem fully convinced.
How short was Nash's shift?
Soon a police car containing two more troopers, Hapscomb and Lyle Hancock, pulls the bus over. Jim throws Donner's gun to the ground and exits the bus with his hands behind his head, giving himself up. But that's not enough for Hancock. He wants revenge for Prestone and Conners. His gun aimed at Jim's chest, Hancock says that Jim spit on his wrist and orders him to wipe it off... That way the bus passengers will think Jim was reaching for Hancock's gun and the trooper was justified in shooting him.
Realizing what's going on, Nash grabs Donner's gun and, even though she knows Hancock, uses it to get the cops to drop their guns. Jim and Nash take the troopers' car, headed for the sheriff's office in a nearby town.
Hancock is played by Henry Darrow, and I love his delivery of the line "Don't you know who he is?!" when Nash is rescuing Jim.
It makes it sound like Ryder's been terrorizing the area for a while. The guy's like a ghost.
Two more police cars are soon speeding after them. Believing Jim's story now, Nash is confident that they'll be fine when the truth comes out and attempts to negotiate with the pursuing police over the CB radio. These cops aren't interested in negotiations. Troopers riding in the cars open fire on their vehicle with shotguns as a high speed chase ensues. To save their lives, Nash has to attempt to return fire, aiming at tires. Before she can get off a shot, she drops Donner's gun.
It's the cops who end up accidentally taking each other out, crashing and flipping down the road.
The chase doesn't end there. A police helicopter appears in the sky, an officer equipped with an M16 firing on Jim and Nash from it. That's when Ryder decides to get involved, driving along in his pickup truck and shooting at the helicopter with his handgun.
Not only is Ryder successful at shooting the chopper out of the sky, when it crashes down onto the road it also takes out three more police cars that were coming up on Jim and Nash's tail. Driving off, Ryder just smirks and lights a cigarette.
Jim and Nash, who is very confused about Ryder not killing them, abandon the badly damaged patrol car and walk to a motel. They rent a room to gather their thoughts and figure out what to do, and end up falling asleep. Nash wanted to call her dad, but Jim forbids it. In the night, Jim gets up and takes a shower. Nash takes this opportunity to call her dad and let him know where she is and that she's okay.
Nash falls back asleep. Ryder is in the room. He gets in bed with her. Cuddles with her. When she realizes who he is, he clamps a hand over her mouth.
Jim exits the bathroom to find Nash missing and cops all over the motel parking lot. Captain Esteridge is there, and he needs Jim's help. Ryder is making a spectacle of himself, having tied Nash between a semi truck and a trailer. If the cops shoot him, the truck will roll forward and Nash will be torn in half. They need Jim to be their hostage negotiator.
Jim gets in the truck to talk to Ryder. All Ryder wants him to do is shoot him in the face. He even provides Jim with a loaded gun to do so. Jim can't. If he does, Nash will die.
Nash was doomed regardless. Calling Jim a useless waste, Ryder lets the truck pull forward and the girl is torn in half.
Even though the movie fades to black rather than show Nash splitting, it was this moment that got The Hitcher rejected by all of the major studios. The script was toned down to remove a lot of graphic violence, but the filmmakers stuck by the death of Nash, and it ended up being one of the most famous scenes.
It's one of my favorites. Very brutal, even though we don't see the outcome.
Ryder killing Nash in front of the police has cleared Jim's name. The hitcher is arrested and they're both taken to a police station. An attempt is made to interrogate Ryder, but he doesn't give any serious information. He has no identification, his fingerprints aren't in the system, he has no prison record. Watching the questioning of Ryder through a two-way mirror, Jim recalls the name he gave him. "His name is John Ryder."
When Jim says this, Ryder looks over at the mirror, almost as if there's some kind of connection between the two men now.
Jim asks to speak with Ryder, and Esteridge figures it's worth a try. Jim walks up to Ryder, extends a hand. Ryder takes Jim's hand in his. Then Jim spits in his face.
Ryder is put on a prison transport bus holding no other passengers except for shotgun-toting police officers. Esteridge drives Jim off in the opposite direction... But Jim knows that the police will never be able to hold Ryder. He's going to find a way to escape from that bus.
This is kind of weird to me. They know how dangerous Ryder is, they even had a helicopter search/chase going, and now that they have him in custody, the officers are playing cards?
Jim is right. Ryder escapes from the bus, killing every cop on it with him.
I don't remember Ryder shooting the driver, who kept on driving after the gun was shot a bunch of times. Bizarre.
Determined to stop Ryder's reign of terror, Jim steals Esteridge's gun, orders the lawman out of his own truck, and drives the vehicle off in the direction of the bus for one last confrontation with his mysterious tormentor.
I do love the ending. The final scenes are beautifully shot, and the movie ends the way it should. With some justice.
Rutger Hauer has had several iconic roles in his career, and John Ryder is right up there as one of his best. He's scary, he's fascinating, and Hauer gets it across that Ryder is having a good time without being over-the-top about it. Smirks and subtle expressions, not maniacal laughter. Ryder is also a conflicted character. He wants to be stopped, he wants to die, but he's so good at this stuff that no one seems capable of stopping him. He always in control of the situation, no matter what. So he just keeps killing people.
Well, Jim did stop Ryder when he literally kicked him out of the car. One could argue that it granted Jim a "I'll leave him alone" card. But there's no way to reason with someone as psychotic as Ryder, so Jim was out of luck from the beginning.
Rutger Hauer is amazing. I remember being terrified of him when I was a kid.
The fear on display in C. Thomas Howell's performance feels very real, and the actor has admitted that he was legitimately afraid of Hauer during filming. It comes across in his performance. There are moments where Jim is barely holding it together in Ryder's presence.
I understand why C. Thomas Howell was so scared of Hauer. Who wouldn't be? Even though most of it is reacting, and not acting, what matters is that it works. You feel bad for Jim as he keeps being thrown deeper and deeper into the mess. Great job.
Jennifer Jason Leigh was the opposite - she took the role of Nash because she had enjoyed working with Hauer on the movie Flesh + Blood the previous year. Nash isn't given a whole lot to do, but she's a likeable character and, briefly, a good ally for Jim.
I feel like Nash could've had a little more depth, it's mostly a very bland character. But I guess it's supposed to be like that, to balance out the intensity we get from Jim and Ryder. Jennifer Jason Leigh makes the character very sweet and well-intentioned, so it all works out as a whole.
There are a lot of solid character actors and familiar faces in the supporting cast, including the aforementioned DeMunn, Davis, and Darrow. Billy Green Bush, of Critters and Jason Goes to Hell, and Armin Shimmerman also show up along the way.
I really like the cast, it's very efficient.
The casting was impeccable, but there were some interesting alternate choices in the running. Road House's Sam Elliott was very close to being Ryder, having given such a strong audition that one of the producers was scared to walk out to his car afterward. Terence Stamp was offered the part, David Bowie and Sting were considered, as were Sam Shepard and Harry Dean Stanton. Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, and Matthew Modine were potential Jims.
Very interesting. I'm curious to know what Sting would've been like as Ryder, but no one could ever be as creepy and effective as Hauer.
I'm sure Cody was especially intrigued about a couple of alternate choices himself...
If you know me, you know that my mind was blown when I found out that a movie could have existed in which Tom Cruise is menaced by Sam Elliott. That's something to daydream about, but I think The Hitcher is perfect just as it is.
I never thought I'd hear Cody favor anyone over Tom Cruise. It's a surprise!
The only thing that's not perfect about the movie is the pace. Even though there are tons of tension-filled scenes and moments, I feel like it drags a little bit sometimes. Not that the movie is slow, but it drags a couple of times during its running time. Nothing too major though.
I think it's that low-key, dreamlike feeling. It has been my experience that if I don't watch The Hitcher under the right circumstances, it is a movie that can knock me out. I once saw it screened at a horror marathon at around 5am. Not the right time. Even though it was the movie I was most looking forward to seeing, I was nodding out like crazy.
Robert Harmon made a very impressive feature debut with this film, doing a fantastic job bring Eric Red's script to the screen. The action is well shot and the horror is unsettling. Red went on to write some other memorable horror movies and thrillers, including the following year's Near Dark.
Near Dark is a great movie. Coincidentally, Cody and I wrote about it exactly a year ago.
It's a shame that Harmon hasn't had a bigger career in the thirty years since. It took five years for his second movie to come out, when he should have been getting buried in offers.
Seems unfair and kind of like a waste. Talent was certainly there. I'm very into certain moods and atmospheres, and The Hitcher is spot on for me.
Regardless of what came after, everything came together just right on The Hitcher. It's a great film, one of my favorites.
It's one of my favorites as well. Music is great, acting is fantastic, and cinematography is flawless. Writing and directing are phenomenal. I need to watch this movie more often.
THE HITCHER (2007)
Production company Platinum Dunes made its debut in 2003 with a remake of the 1974 classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then followed that up with a Chainsaw prequel and a remake of 1978's The Amityville Horror. The Hitcher became their fourth project simply because the trio behind the company - blockbuster maker Michael Bay and producing partners Bradley Fuller and Andrew Form - had been fans of the original film in their youths. Seeing that the '86 movie hadn't even crossed $6 million in domestic box office, they plucked the property out of the genre archives so they could try to bring the concept to a wider audience and hopefully make more than $6 million doing so.
Two screenwriters were hired - Eric Bernt (whose prior work had been on action movies like Surviving the Game, which featured Rutger Hauer in a villainous role), and When a Stranger Calls remake writer Jake Wade Wall. Bernt and Wall's work turned out a script that was so similar to the '86 film that the Writers Guild ruled that Eric Red should be credited for it as well.
One of the things Platinum Dunes has wanted to do with their directors was to give guys with a music video background, like Bay himself, a shot at the feature world, and that was the case here when they hired Dave Meyers to helm The Hitcher. Meyers had directed more than a hundred videos for the likes of Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Creed, Dave Matthews, and multiple rap artists, but had made just one movie prior to this, the 1999 Master P/Eddie Griffin comedy Foolish.
Each of Platinum Dunes' movies to this point had a (very loose) "inspired by true events" angle, but the closest The Hitcher gets is the text chosen to open the film: "According to the U.S. Department of Transportation an estimated 42,000 people are killed on highways every year."
The movie is about to show a whole bunch of people dying on a highway. But first, a scene in which a CG bunny rabbit hops out onto a desolate stretch of road and gets splattered by a pickup truck.
The first indication that the filmmakers weren't as serious or thoughtful in their approach to the material as Robert Harmon was. Sure, it's a serious moment for the fake rabbit, but it looks goofy.
And here I was, thinking to myself "okay, this looks promising... and kind of dark". That lasted a few seconds, literally. There's a CG bunny, then a college dorm, and then pop music. I like pop music, and the song is good, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed already. It's a completely different tone.
Zachary Knighton plays this iteration of Jim Halsey, introduced picking up his girlfriend, Sophia Bush as Grace Andrews, from her college dorm in Texas for a spring break trip to Lake Havasu on the Arizona/California border, where Jim will be meeting Grace's childhood friends for the first time. Grace is running late and has to hustle out to Jim's car still wearing her pajamas, so she changes clothes in the vehicle while Jim drives down the road.
Remake Jim does have a nicer car - a well maintained 1970 Oldsmobile 442 - than any in the original.
Stopping so Grace can pee, Jim finds a penny face up on the ground. Good luck. Then the road trip continues out of the city, on through Texas farm land, where another creature gets splattered, this time a dragonfly smashing into the Oldsmobile's windshield.
The car passes into New Mexico. Night falls. Rain starts pouring down. Momentarily distracted by Grace, Jim nearly hits a man who's standing beside a car parked on the side of the road with a thumb extended. The titular hitcher.
The Oldsmobile spins out, and when it stops Jim wants to go back and talk to the guy, give him some help. He's stranded in the rain in the middle of nowhere. Grace, however, is very creeped out by the trenchcoated figure and doesn't want to talk to the guy they nearly turned into roadkill. As the hitcher starts walking toward the Oldsmobile, Grace convinces Jim to drive away... Thanks to the engine being flooded, the hitcher is almost able to reach the car before Jim can get it started.
I can understand being afraid of hitchhikers, but if we didn't know from the start that the guy on the road is a bad dude, I think the way this is handled would make the Grace character look kind of questionable.
The guy was outside the car, standing in the middle of the road, in the rain. And he didn't even move when he was almost hit by Jim's car. I don't know, something is off about the whole thing. I'd probably have done the same thing.
The face of the hitcher, Sean Bean as the new John Ryder, is revealed as he watches the Oldsmobile ride off and another vehicle approaches from behind him.
Conscience-stricken, Jim tries to call help for the guy with his cell phone, but can't get a signal. Things are awkward between the couple, so Jim lightens the mood by telling Grace that spin was his first 360.
Jim and Grace stop at the nearest gas station for gas and snacks (Cheetohs and Ding Dongs)... and so Grace can pee again. She's given a key to the restroom that's attached to a Barbie doll that has been stripped to its panties. Jim asks if the clerk could send a tow truck a few miles down the road to help the guy they passed, but the tow truck driver isn't at work. So instead, the hick clerk just chats away with Jim, complimenting the Oldsmobile, talking about the Camaro he's fixing up and the danger of owning donkeys.
The clerk is played by Kyle Davis, who Platinum Dunes was so impressed by that they had a role written specifically for him in their 2009 Friday the 13th. Davis also played basically the same character in the tornado flick Into the Storm.
Makes me wonder if Kyle Davis is like that in person. I can't imagine him being any different, honestly.
Jim is pumping gas and enjoying a station hot dog when a semi truck pulls up to drop Ryder off. Ryder talks to the clerk briefly, then makes a quick call on a pay phone to let somebody know he's okay, or at least acts like that's what he's doing.
Jim does his best to avoid the guy, but the talkative clerk forces the two to acknowledge each other by saying Ryder must have been the guy Jim saw having car troubles. Jim apologizes for taking off, and Ryder is quick to forgive. "I wouldn't have picked me up, either." But he still needs a ride, and asks Jim for a lift to a nearby motel.
By the time Grace returns from the restroom, Jim has agreed to take Ryder to the motel.
That was a really long pee. Grace got Jim to leave Ryder behind before, but she was thwarted by her bladder this time.
I wish Grace was around to put some sense into Jim. Even not knowing what was about to happen, the guy couldn't be okay with them leaving him behind. I guess that thought just didn't cross Jim's mind.
Grace sits in the back, listening to music through ear buds, while Jim and Ryder talk in the front seat. The guys are having a normal conversation until Ryder compliments Grace's looks and asks Jim an inappropriate question. Jim, noting the wedding ring Ryder wears, responds by asking him the same question.
Hauer's Ryder also wore a wedding ring, but it was never commented on in the film. Until he reveals his true personality, this Ryder does seem more like an average guy, just a married business man having some bad luck on the road.
Ryder says he doesn't have a wife, the ring just helps strangers think he's trustworthy. He's not. He takes Jim's cell phone out of the glove compartment and snaps it in half. That's enough for Jim to start to slow down and pull the car over, but Ryder pulls out a bloodstained switchblade and orders him to keep driving. By now Grace has noticed what's going on, but she keeps quiet as she pulls out her own cell phone and dials 911.
Before Grace can make the call, Ryder grabs her and puts his knife to her face. Ryder says he wants Jim to stop him. He'll have to if he doesn't want Grace to be hurt. All Jim has to say is four words: "I want to die." Ryder sticks the knife to Jim's throat, forcing him to say it one word at a time. Jim steps on the gas while repeating the words, and when he would reach "Die" he instead yells "I don't want to die!" and slams on the brakes. Not buckled in, Ryder is thrown forward, his head smashing the windshield.
Jim then starts kicking the dazed Ryder over and over, having Grace open the passenger door so a kick eventually sends Ryder tumbling out of the car.
I don't find any of this nearly as effective as the scene in the original. It feels rushed, it happens too quickly.
The problem is that, by having two people instead of one, it already makes it a completely different movie. It doesn't feel as lonely and isolated, and it also feels less dangerous, because two people can take one person much easier. Which is what happened at the end of the scene.
As Jim and Grace drive off, Grace realizes that her phone fell out of the car with Ryder. Ryder just lies in the road for a while... until the sound of Grace's phone ringing snaps him out of his stupor.
That was a very good cell phone! Took a nasty fall and was completely soaked, being out in the rain. Yet it still worked!
The Oldsmobile continues on down the road. Grace falls asleep, and soon Jim can't keep his eyes open any longer. He pulls the car to the side of the road, grabs a drink... and then Ryder's arms burst through the window and grab him. It's daylight when Jim wakes up from this nightmare.
I usually dislike dream sequences in otherwise grounded movies, and this is exactly the type of thing I hate. Breaking the reality of the film just for a cheap, lame jump scare.
The scene doesn't bother me... makes sense that Jim would be haunted by Ryder after what happened.
Grace is ready to go back home, but Jim talks her into sticking with the plan of going to Lake Havasu. They'll talk to the cops, by that night they'll be partying with Grace's friends, and they'll have a hell of a story to tell them.
Again, Grace acts like the brain. They should've gone back home... not only was Ryder still out there, but he knew where they were going, because Jim told him back at the gas station. He never mentioned that to Grace, and seems not to care that the guy could just find them after they reached their destination. Jim just isn't very bright.
The couple gets back on the road, and soon they're being passed by a station wagon carrying a family of four - mother, father, and two children.
This station wagon passes the Oldsmobile on a solid yellow line. Law breakers!
There's a fifth passenger in the station wagon. Ryder. Jim speeds up alongside the vehicle so he and Grace can notify the parents that Ryder is crazy and pulled a knife on them, but they don't get the message.
I actually buy this scene in the remake. The family did have a "honk if you love Jesus" sticker, so the honking wouldn't be enough to make them pull over. Plus, Grace and Jim are screaming at the same time, it's pretty confusing. I get why they couldn't really understand what Grace and Jim were trying to say.
To avoid a head-on collision with a semi, Jim swerves off the road... and off a steep embankment. The Oldsmobile catches air and has a rough landing that there's no driving away from.
Poor 442. This hurts to see. They should have just given Jim a junker to drive, don't destroy a classic muscle car!
I agree. It does hurt.
Jim and Grace are forced to walk off down the road, through the desert. A pickup truck just passes them by. As Grace says, "Nobody stops for strangers." Jim tries to assure her that things are going to be okay, but she's not having it.
Eventually they come across the station wagon, parked on the side of the road. When the couple goes to check on the occupants, not only do the filmmakers show the blood-spattered interior of the car this time and the adult victims -
At least we're spared a shot of the boy's wounds, and the little girl seems to be missing.
- but the father is even alive, Ryder's knife stuck in his chest. Jim and Grace have to get inside the vehicle so they can try to save the man's life and get him to a hospital.
During the desperate drive, Ryder speeds up behind the station wagon in the pickup truck that passed Jim and Grace earlier and starts ramming the back of the vehicle. After he has scared them a while and caused some damage, Ryder drives off down a side path.
Jim figures Ryder wants revenge for being pushed out of a car, but Grace reminds him that they had no other choice.
The first place they reach is a truck stop restaurant. While Jim stays with the dying, praying man, Grace runs in, tells a waitress to call 911, and goes to get towels from the restroom. Through a window in the restroom, Grace sees that the pickup truck is parked outside, so she locks the door and cowers when someone walks up to the other side of the door.
That window really shouldn't be there, directly across from the toilet.
Hick clerk would've liked it very much.
The father passes away before the police can get there, and when they do they immediately treat Jim and Grace like criminals, handcuffing them and hauling them off to a police station. Jim is locked in a cell while Grace is taken into an interrogation room.
While Grace tells Sheriff Harlan Bremmer, Sr. the whole truth about Ryder, the sheriff notices that a phone in the next room is ringing and going unanswered. Bremmer exits the room to see what's going on... and he never returns. Grace walks up to the two-way mirror, expecting officers to be on the other side, and starts asking for someone to come in and talk to her. On the other side of the mirror, the bloody hand of John Ryder draws an outline of Grace's face.
Then Grace notices when the interrogation room door is unlocked. She steps out and sees a police dog walking around the station on its own. She follows it into the main room, where she finds the bloody corpses of police officers. The dog licks the bloody head of the dead sheriff.
This film is moving way too quickly at all times. Ryder somehow silently killed these cops within seconds of Jim and Grace arriving.
This part of the movie definitely feels a bit rushed to me. It's like no time has passed, but everyone's dead. No noise, nothing... Ryder killed everyone in a matter of seconds. He's not a ghost here, he's a ninja.
The lights go out in the cell room. Ryder appears outside Jim's cell, grabbing the young man by the head and telling him he screams like a bitch. When Jim asks him why he's doing this, Ryder responds that Jim can figure it out, he's a smart kid.
Jim really isn't all that smart, though.
Ryder exits when Grace comes in carrying a flashlight and Bremmer's gun. She lets Jim out of the cell and the couple runs away from the police station as other police arrive.
Walking off into the desert, Jim and Grace argue about what to do next. She thinks they should go back and talk to the police, get help. Jim feels that more cops won't do any good. She denies it at first, but she blames him for them being in the situation. They should have gone home, he shouldn't have given Ryder a ride. How could Jim have known he was a lunatic? "You could have just listened to me."
In a situation like the one at the gas station, I very likely would have been roped into giving Ryder a ride just like Jim was, so I take issue with Grace's attitude. He was only trying to do what was right, and has been trying to lift her spirits ever since things went wrong.
Jim is nice and very sweet, but agreeing to giving Ryder a ride, telling him exactly where they were headed, just isn't something you do. The guy was a complete stranger, one that they had almost ran over, and left behind in the rain. Blaming Jim was really more about Grace being upset, scared and frustrated. But the things he did do, really weren't the right choices.
Then the pickup truck comes flying off a cliff beside them, smashing down right in front of Grace.
That scene makes absolutely no sense. That being said, it's kind of a cool one.
Lieutenant Esteridge (Neal McDonough) arrives at the police station to try to get this situation under control. Checking Jim and Grace's files, he quickly comes to the conclusion that they aren't capable of killing all these cops. Seeing the blood art Ryder left on the interrogation mirror, Esteridge figures it was done by a third suspect.
Being stalked through the desert by a rifle-toting Ryder, Jim and Grace reach some old trailer homes beside a car junkyard. No one's home except the dogs guarding the junk, so the couple hides in a trashy shed and try to ignore the spiders and scorpions.
Officer Edwards, one of the cops from the restaurant, shows up on the scene, so Jim leaves the shed to talk to him. Edwards just tackles Jim to the ground, restrains him, and radios in that the male suspect has been captured but the female is still at large. Edwards makes this report without even glancing at the open door of the shed. Grace comes out with Bremmer's gun and forces Edwards to let Jim up. Jim takes Edwards' gun and the couple walks the cop back to his patrol car at gunpoint, planning to take the car with Edwards as their hostage.
Other cops arrive just in time to see Edwards get shot in the head. He has been sniped by Ryder, but from their vantage point it looks like Grace killed their fellow officer.
The cops open fire on the couple as they tear out in the patrol car. A high speed chase ensues, Jim and Grace followed by three patrol cars with air support provided by a police helicopter. During the chase, Grace uses the CB radio to contact Esteridge and try to explain to him what's going on, but Esteridge isn't interested in discussing it over the radio.
This Esteridge is a horrible character. Badly written, and McDonough's performance doesn't help it. He freaks out, punches the wall, delivers dumb lines. It's terrible. At least his vulgarities are ridiculous enough to be memorable.
First he acts like a douche, then he doesn't. Very hard to read, and very shallow as a character. I have liked McDonough since I saw him on Desperate Housewives, but he was miscast and misused here.
Esteridge has one of the pursuing officers attempt to get Jim and Grace to pull over by opening fire on their vehicle. The cop shoots out one of their tires, and just when the couple is about to pull over and surrender, Ryder comes speeding up in a Trans Am he took from the junkyard.
The Nine Inch Nails song "Closer" kicks in on the soundtrack as Ryder proceeds to wipe out all three patrol cars chasing the couple, as well as the chopper, with his newfound Trans Am and a handgun.
That song was so wrong for this scene. It actually takes away any sense of tension it probably would have otherwise.
Nine Inch Nails is cool and all, but putting this song over this sequence was a really dopey choice. It makes me cringe.
Once all the cops are dead, Ryder drives on down the road, leaving Jim and Grace behind. Their patrol car is done for, so they ditch it and walk into the desert again. Coming over a hill, Jim and Grace see a motel in the distance. Reaching the establishment, they find an empty room with an unlocked window and sneak in.
How is it possible that the police aren't looking at the motel? It's the nearest place Grace and Jim would be able to hide, and there are no cops around.
They can't call home from the motel room because the phone connects directly to the front office, so instead they just take a shower together. After, Jim says he's going to go find a pay phone so he can call their parents and try to get them to send help. He'll be back in 15 minutes. Before he leaves, he apologizes for getting them in this situation.
The shower scene is one of my favorites. I often think about it in horror movies when one character goes shower and the other disappears. Just seems wise that they were doing it together. It was also a very lovey moment. Really great, until Jim leaves on his own. Seems out of character that Grace would let him go like that.
Grace turns on the TV and gets in bed. Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds is on, and has just started. Grace falls asleep. Nearly two hours later, The Birds is ending and Grace is still asleep.
Platinum Dunes put The Birds in here because at the time it was supposed to be the next remake they were going to do. Multiple script drafts have been written, several directors have been attached, at one point Naomi Watts was set to star, but the Dunes Birds still hasn't happened.
I have to say I'm glad it never happened. Hopefully it won't. Seems like the wrong type of movie for them to remake. And they don't always hit the mark with the "right" ones.
Jim finally gets back, putting a Ding Dong on the night stand, and gets in bed with Grace. He gets touchy feely with her, and she tells him, "You're making me horny."
After all the death and blood she's seen in the last twenty-four hours, that seems kind of strange.
It does. They weren't horny showering together, but she is now? Another out of character thing for Grace to do.
It's not Jim in bed with her. It's Ryder. He roughly grabs her and tells her he's horny, too. Using the phone and lamp as weapons, Grace manages to fight Ryder off and run into the bathroom, where she left Bremmer's gun.
Ryder leaves and, gun in hand, Grace goes out into the parking lot to look for Jim. Seeing the gun-toting girl walking around his parking lot, the motel owner calls the police.
Grace finds Jim chained between a semi truck and trailer. Ryder is at the wheel of the truck, and if he drives too far forward Jim will be torn apart. Grace orders Ryder to let Jim go, but he refuses to, and if she shoots him the truck will pull forward. Ryder makes her get in the truck with him.
Grace desperately tries to get Ryder to let Jim go, but he says he can't. Ryder wants to die. He has Grace put the gun to his head and tells her to pull the trigger. If she does, Jim will die. Police arrive and, seeing Grace with the gun, think she's the villain here. They all pull their guns and point them at her, telling her to drop her gun.
Realizing she's not going to kill him, Ryder snatches the gun away from Grace, calls her a useless waste, and drives forward. Meyers shows us Jim being torn in half at the waist.
In the mid-'80s, studios were rejecting The Hitcher just for implying that Nash was torn apart. In 2007, a subsidiary of Universal puts out a version of The Hitcher that shows Jim exploding at the midsection.
Not showing what happened to Nash works better with the psychological thriller/horror vibe the original movie has going for it. But for the remake, they needed the gore. Without it, it would've been pretty empty. The Hitcher '07 doesn't have the same atmosphere as the '86 movie. Not even close.
This is the biggest switch around that the remake makes, removing Jim from the movie rather than his female companion. Unfortunately, Grace is the less likeable character of the two.
I wouldn't say Grace is likeable, but she is the strongest character out of the two. And some girl power is always welcome.
Grace and Ryder are taken to a police station, where Grace is cleared of all wrongdoing. All the police are able to figure out about John Ryder is that his name isn't really John Ryder, he stole the identity of some guy from North Dakota. Whoever the hitcher is, his mugshot and fingerprints aren't in the database. "This guy is a ghost."
Esteridge attempts to interrogate Ryder, but doesn't get much out of him. Where is he from? "All over." Why did he kill Jim? "Why not?" How many people has he killed? "Hard to say."
Ryder is loaded into a transport van with three police officers. Esteridge follows in an SUV, taking Grace to Albuquerque, where she'll receive trauma support before being released to her parents.
The cop riding in the back of the van with Ryder is staring directly into his face the whole time, but doesn't realize that Ryder is slipping out of his cuffs until it's too late. Ryder slits the cop's throat with the cuffs, then uses his gun to shoot the two riding up front, who had been discussing customized teddy bears.
Suddenly the transport van is crashing and flipping down the road right in front of Esteridge and Grace. The van hits another car, which then smashes into Esteridge's SUV. Esteridge is injured and trapped in the vehicle.
Esteridge radios for backup and tells Grace to run into the desert and hide until help arrives, but Grace is done running. She takes Esteridge's gun and goes to confront Ryder. That doesn't work out. Ryder gets out of the van and traps her in it.
While Grace struggles to escape from the van, Ryder ignites the stream of gasoline flowing from the wreckage, walks over to the SUV and shoots Esteridge dead.
Armed with a shotgun, Grace gets out of the burning van and shoots Ryder to death. Before she delivers the kill shot, he asks her, "Feels good, doesn't it?" She replies, "I don't feel a thing."
The end credits start rolling at the 78 minute point, seventeen minutes sooner than the end credits of the original started.
As a random action-thriller, The Hitcher isn't one of the worst ways to kill some time, but compared to the 1986 film, the 2007 version has very little going for it.
I agree that it would be easier to like it if it wasn't a remake of such a great movie.
There is nothing here that comes even close to being as good as the original. It feels like there was no thought or vision behind this. The movie always feels like it's in a rush to get to the next major setpiece that was lifted from the '86 movie. The action and violence was all they were interested in, and they wanted to get to those moments as quickly and simply as possible.
The Hitcher 1986 drags a little at times, and The Hitcher 2007 feels rushed. I'd say the remake is more dynamic than the original, in theory. It goes by faster, even too fast. But the original has such a unique atmosphere, not being "dynamic" is hardly a problem.
Robert Harmon's take on The Hitcher was full of style and atmosphere. There is no style or atmosphere here, just blood and dirt.
The remake has some very big scenes. Some tension, too. The part where they drive the car with the dead family inside, and the paper towel/bathroom scene are two of my favorites. The gore is not too much, but it is needed, to fill the somewhat lack of suspense.
I don't know Zachary Knighton from anything else, but he does a decent job in the role of Jim Halsey, despite rocking the beard of an Amish newlywed. He's not asked to convey as much emotion as C. Thomas Howell was.
Sophia Bush is a solid actress, but the character of Grace grates on my nerves for much of the running time. It doesn't really feel like she earns being the heroine. Jim apologizes to her (apologizes for being a good guy), and then it's her movie, but she doesn't seem to have grown or changed.
Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton are both easy to look at. And they make a cute couple. I think they were the right choices for the parts, they fit in with the the overall look of the movie.
I don't think any younger actor would've done as well as Jim as C. Thomas Howell. So, as long as you don't compare the two characters, Knighton's Jim is okay.
Sean Bean's "John Ryder" is more convincing as a regular guy at first, but once he switches into villain mode there's not much to him, he's just sleazy and vulgar. He doesn't have the depth of Rutger Hauer's Ryder. I'm glad they made it so that Ryder wasn't this guy's real identity, because Rutger Hauer is the real John Ryder. Sean Bean just can't compare.
There is nothing scary about Sean Bean's Ryder. He's pretty lifeless and doesn't exactly look like a menace. He seems spacey in a bunch of scenes. I can't compare him to Rutger Hauer, there is just no way to do it. In all honesty, the hick clerk scares me more than Bean's Ryder.
The supporting cast is pretty much non-existant, except for Neal McDonough as Esteridge, and I can't stand him.
I truly blame casting and directing for this. Remake's Esteridge is a waste of character.
The Hitcher '86 is a classic. There's really nothing for me to recommend about The Hitcher '07. If a person were only going to watch one version of the story, I would hate for The Hitcher in their mind to be the remake. The 2007 movie should only be watched if you're already familiar with the 1986 one and are curious to see what the movie would be like if a music video director made it trashy.
The original Hitcher is so dark and gritty. And the performances are memorable. There is no way it could be duplicated. So, they went the opposite way and made a more "colorful", "pop-y" movie. By doing that alone, most people are going to have trouble accepting the movie. I wouldn't call it trashy, but it's not great, either.
Two things I like are the fact that they make it clear that the family in the car couldn't possibly understand what Grace and Jim were trying to tell them. The other is the fact that the cop riding in the back of the van with Ryder is watching him the entire time. Though he was pretty slow to notice that Ryder was getting himself loose.
There were eight years between Dave Meyers' first and second features. Another eight years have passed since The Hitcher, and he has yet to direct a third. I can see why.
Directing isn't the best thing about it, neither is the music. Though I like "Move Along" by The All-American Rejects.
Platinum Dunes reached their goal of earning more than $6 million for The Hitcher, but didn't exceed it by much. Domestic box office topped out at $16.4 million, and international markets added less than $9 million to that.
The movie is too polished and so many things about it could've been done differently/better. Still, this is not the worst remake by Platinum Dunes... not even close. I can still watch this movie and enjoy it a little for what it is. It's not one of my favorites, and it doesn't compare to the original, but I have seen much worse.