Original Vs. Remake: The Hitcher

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

The choice was crystal clear on our last Original Vs. Remake, which had John Carpenter’s THE FOG easily blasting the horrendous 2005 remake out to sea. I appreciated everyone’s obligatory responses greatly!

For today’s O vs. R, we are hitting the road with a pair of films that will definitely make you think twice about looking for some traveling company on your next long trip. So, stick out your big thumb and push the pedal to the metal as we pick up both versions of THE HITCHER!

Jim is driving cross country and picks up a hitchhiker for some company. He soon learns that his new friend in the passenger’s seat is a f*cking psycho. Though Jim tries his best to lose the nut, he is unable to escape the man’s grasp. A sick game of cat and mouse is set up with plenty of bodies being left in the wake. Jim has to keep his shit together if he’s ever going to survive this road trip from Hell.
First off, if you’re ever going to make a remake that is suspenseful and pays tribute to the original, you really shouldn’t start off with the song “Move Along” over the opening credits. This is what plays as Grace and Jim are heading out on their road trip. Of course, they soon pick up a creepy hitchhiker and the trip turns deadly. In this one, Grace becomes the hitcher’s main taunting target, which is fine. However, the lazy plot that follows does not work.
For a 1980’s low budget road horror flick, the acting is shockingly superb. C. Thomas Howell has never been better as the Hitcher’s prey. The range of emotions and depths of despair that he displays some times makes you forget it’s only a movie. And Rutger Hauer simply knocks it out of the park as John Ryder. His psycho is scary as hell, yet so cool and subdued. He never yells.
None of the performances are necessarily horrible here. Sophia Bush is fully adept at showcasing frightened. The dude that plays her boyfriend is ok, not total shit. Sean Bean is always bad ass and was definitely a good pick to take on Ryder. The biggest problem is that none of the actors were given anything juicy to work with, which makes for zero memorable performances.
Special Effects
The Hitcher is gloriously gory and, as always, it is all done in excellent 80’s practical fashion! Every dead body, gunshot wound, and slashed throat spurts the real red stuff. Also, we get some nifty pyrotechnics in the form of a gas station explosion that results in a car racing away while on fire. Very nice work.
Surprisingly, the remake also decided to go forth with mostly practical F/X and I must say it is one of the few smart decisions it made. There is some good gore on hand here with some flowing stab wounds and gunshot blasts to the head. There is also a very satisfying take on the trucker “pull-apart” scene.
Oh shit, is this film loaded with all kinds of sick tension! From the very first scene when Rutger Hauer pulls a knife on C. Thomas Howell, you’ll be gripping the edges of your seat. From there, any time the hitcher pops up, shocking scares are never far behind. A glowing example would be towards the end when he’s revving that truck engine with poor Jennifer Jason Leigh tied to the back. Chilling.
Here’s another helpful hint for anyone attempting to make an intense horror remake. If your killer is about to kill a bunch of people in a high speed chase, do NOT start playing “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails out of nowhere. Because you instantly lose all sense of realism and suspense. In fact, this movie is completely devoid of any proper tension.
Hot Chicks
There’s only one woman in this film and, thankfully, it is Jennifer Jason Leigh in her mid-1980’s short-haired prime. She’s the kind of flower you’d feel lucky to happen upon while driving cross country through the desert. Sporting a sexy southernish accent and cute blonde bob, she can ride shotgun any time!
I don’t think a single person on this site would disagree that Sophia Bush is a modern day goddess of alluring sexuality. Her gorgeous face with sultry eyes! That sensuous voice! Her perfectly curved body! Yeah, she’s nearly perfect. Plus, we get her in a short jean skirt, panties, and even in the shower (though there’s no nudity). Regardless, sexy Sophia wins.
Masterful is how I’d describe Robert Harmon’s work here. The tension he generates from the simplest of sources such as Ryder sitting in the back seat of a station wagon, is incredible. And the performances he got from his two leads are such a sight to behold. He also works the less is more approach in just the right fashion, which makes for an excellent suspense film experience.
Dave Meyers directed this remake. Ready for a big f*cking shock? He’s a music video director! The Hitcher is the ONLY movie he’s directed! Who the f*ck did he blow to get this job?! Just another prime example of why Platinum Dunes remakes are mostly shit. That pathetic “Closer” car chase now makes perfect sense as does the complete lack of real tension. Asinine.
The Hitcher (1986)
Wow, well this sure was a surprise! No, actually it wasn’t! Here, we have another classic horror original completely running over its uninspired remake. Many may say that the choice was obvious, but I say that at least we got to shine some light once again on the genre masterpiece that is 1986’s The Hitcher. Got an opinion on this? Then, go forth and fire them bullets below! And if you have any flicks you’d like to see in this column, give me a shout at [email protected].

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