Hitcher [1986]

20 years is a long time in the lifeline of movie plot-arc necessities. It's also a pretty big generational stretch in the lives of audience demographics, which may be part of the reason the producers of this remake of the 1986 cult horror classic felt the need to update the original spare mano-a-mano backbone into a girl-and-mano-a-mano. The Twilight Zone-ish setup is still a pretty neat idea: regular guy on a lonely highway picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a psychopathic killer with some very unsettling supernatural might. Fans of the original could hardly hope for a demon villain with such creepy charisma as Rutger Hauer. But Sean Bean makes a respectable replacement, with his understated stare and stewing rage that brings a new brand of hair-raising devilry to the role of hitcher John Ryder. The lone "good guy" originated by a boyish C. Thomas Howell has been upgraded to a lovesick couple. In a twisty touch, Jim (Zachary Knighton, sorta unknown) and Grace (Sophia Bush, of One Tree Hill fame) trade gender roles, with Jim turning wimpy and feminine and Grace becoming a shotgun-toting testoster-ette. The body count's a little higher and the gore factor increased by the power of 20 (years), but some of the original film's set pieces remain much the same-- body-snapping case in point being an 18-wheeler being put to use as a old-fashioned torture rack. While the original might have placed a bit more emphasis on the philosophical and existential elements of evil passing from soul to soul, it wasn't exactly an intellectual thrill ride. Likewise, 2007's The Hitcher is no art film, and it can't be faulted for choosing fright and might for audiences that are always looking for bigger and more elaborate splats for their horror entertainment buck. And if you stick out your thumb for this one, expect plenty of splat. --Ted Fry

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