Jan. 22, 2007
 
RUTHERFORD ON FILM: ‘The Hitcher’: Don’t Pick Up this Dude…with His Thumb Half Out and Leaning Downward
 
By Tony Rutherford
Huntington News Network Critic
 
Huntington, WV (HNN) -- Picking up strangers on the road has been regarded by many as a violation of Safety 101. But, when you see someone apparently broken down on a desolate stretch of highway, you can not help thinking about an exception. Two spring break bound college students (Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton) do just that and swiftly succumb to accompanying worst fear scenarios.
 
Part supernatural and part slasher, “The Hitcher” remake seeks to walk gingerly along a hallowed mark. The England’s rough faced Sean (“Silent Hill,” “North Country”) Bean, and his repeated demand to say, “I want to die,” further the supernatural pretext, so do his painful escapes from confinement. Avoiding a giant spoiler, I’ll reveal only that dancing around the demon’s coven diminishes in favor screwed up torturing serial killer.
 
What grabs intensely soon plunges into a black hole for the absurd. If our killer hitchhiker does not have a hellish home, his escaping more perils than a serial hero trashes the strong lunatic escapee bit, too.
 
On the plus side, David Meyers directs the scream film with an eye on reasonable R-rated restraint when it comes to explicitly showing body counts. And, an evil aura manifests surrounds the stark, stalking fellow on the highway
 
Meyers, who got his start -- like McG -- in music videos, has a meritorious fixation on wringing the most suspense out of “trapped” situations, be it a spider and scorpion infested out building, a diner rest room, or a basement jail. Those well timed shots of creepy crawlers surrounding the hideout from the killer crank the tension up a notch. Ms. Bush has a brazen gutsy attitude and physical stamina as she transcends an initial loud mouth but weak trigger finger personality.
 
Following milking the framing of the innocent couple for the mounting death toll, the mayhem and marksmanship pander a step back and use your head signal to the state police commander as turns increasing cruiser squadrons into burning, crushed survivors of an Evil Knievel stunt gone array. We’ve been there, done that. Same with the sudden departures from the “frame” into a little nastiness in the form of a modern, make shift 18-wheeler rack. Anyone want to guess who will finally wipe out the killer (or at least until studio execs decide if the cost benefit ratio merits a sequel)?
 
Frankly, as I recall more scenes, the haphazard believability agenda tosses a quickie at the opening when Ms. Bush runs late for the spring break trip and rushes out in brief bed clothes and bare feet with an arm load of garments. Watch closely now, but this is Arizona and New Mexico and unless her guy friend kept a pair her size in the back of his sports car, leather cowboy length boots were NOT one of the items she held in her hands when she fled the dorm and leaped into his arms (without luggage) for the odyssey. Yes, appropriate footwear for their hikes, but I bet a bit on the hot side running through stretches of desert?
 
Give her credit, though, when the goon nearly nips her neck in the hotel room, she looks the bath and, believe it or not, fully dresses (yes, including those boots) before making a jog for help, thus avoiding the barefoot Barbie syndrome for which Hollywood has a fondness. They must have seen the “Charmed” episode about how the young demon busters tend to always find themselves in a battle wearing inappropriate footwear!