The factoid at the beginning of producer Michael Bay’s latest useless horror remake informs us that "42,000 people are killed on highways each year." But if there’s one thing that can be learned from this new Hitcher, it’s that you should never, under any circumstance, eat those rancid hot dogs you find rolling around under Plexiglas domes at gas stations. As soon as you do, all hell will break loose.
That’s as good an excuse as any for the random, psychotic-masochistic behavior of the film’s title character, who — in a dumb effort at updating the 20-year-old script — is introduced not thumbing a ride but standing in the middle of the road, waiting for a car to hit him. In fact, there’s no hitchhiking at all in The Hitcher, just a bunch of "how did he get there?" moments where our slasher anti-hero materializes in a monster truck, a small-town jail cell or the back seat of a station wagon. He might as well be from outer space, or maybe the future.
This time around, the bloodthirsty creepo is played by Lord of the Rings’ Sean Bean, filling the shallow shoes left by ’80s B-movie idol Rutger Hauer. As in the first film, the killer interrupts the southwestern road trip of young ciphers Jim (Zachary Knighton) and Grace (Sophia Bush). A couple of zero-chemistry co-eds on spring break, they’re so flat and uninteresting — the acting is one notch away from low-budget porn — it’s a surprise they don’t get killed off in the first 10 minutes. But no: As they suffer through increasingly demented, convoluted and unbelievable encounters with the Hitcher, we suffer through their petty bickering ("we should have turned around!"), stupendous powers of deduction ("he’s framing us!") and unintentionally self-referential dialogue ("Why are you wasting your time with me?").
All of which makes you ask: Why is Bean wasting his time with this crap? The ruggedly handsome actor doesn’t even have a whole lot to do in the film, a fact that might have appealed to him when he signed his no-doubt lucrative contract. But the supporting performer who’s truly wasted is inanimate: The 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 that gets tragically smashed up within the first half-hour of the film. For all the human carnage in The Hitcher, the only real tragedy is seeing this classic muscle car careen off a desert cliff.
Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].