Either I'm starting to get really old, or this whole remake thing has finally gone too far.
Hollywood is now starting to re-do movies that have come out within my adult lifetime. I remember seeing "The Hitcher" in 1986 at the La Grande Drive-In. (To be honest, I remember going to see "The Hitcher," but it was a drive-in, after all. The only elements I can visually recall are C. Thomas Howell finding a severed finger in his truck-stop french fries, Jennifer Jason Leigh running around screaming and Rutger Hauer's steely grin. Oh, and the infamous guy-gets-ripped-in-half-by-two-semis scene.)
The 2007 version of "The Hitcher" is nothing but a film-school exercise for first-time director Dave Meyers. Heck, producer Andrew Form even says so right in the production notes on the movie's Web site:
"At lunch one day, 'The Hitcher' came up. Like most people, I had seen it a long time ago. We re-watched it, and we instantly thought, 'This is exactly what we need to do...'"
This, from Platinum Dunes, Michael Bay's production company that brought us the recent retreads, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Amityville Horror."
Obvious question No. 1: Why make this movie again?
Not for any advances in special effects in the past two decades. On the blood-and-gore scale, this updated "Hitcher" is relatively tame. Don't get me wrong - I'm not that desensitized - plenty of folks die, but most of them expire quickly with a bullet, or more gruesomely offscreen.
And not because a big-name star was available. Sean Bean certainly is a hot commodity right now, thanks to his exposure in "The Lord of the Rings," but I'm not sure he qualifies as "A-list" yet.
Some remakes manage to hold their own as stylistic entities. Meyers' "Hitcher" brings nothing new to the screen. Lots of highway, lots of dust, lots of shots of pretty Sophia Bush (replacing pretty Jennifer Jason Leigh) looking terrified.
The only substantial change from the 1986 original involves how The Hitcher (Bean) ends up in a car with the two leads, Bush and her boyfriend, Zach Knighton. In 1986, people would still conceivably pick up a hitchhiker on a lonely stretch of desert road. These days, it seems young people know better.
Maybe because we all saw a horror movie about a homicidal hitchhiker 20 years ago?
At any rate, Knighton feels guilty for almost crashing into Bean during a late-night downpour, and agrees to give him a ride to the next town when they meet up at a gas station.
That encounter ends chillingly, when the couple manage to push Bean out of their classic Oldsmobile 440 after he rips apart their cell phone and puts a knife to their throats.
The run-ins become more frequent, and more deadly, as time and again Bean shows up with lethal intentions, but lets them get away with just enough blood on their hands to make them appear they're the killers.
Obvious question No. 2: Why go see this movie again?
If you've never seen the original, and slasher lite is up your alley, this might just be the show for you. It's not a half-bad date movie - the guy's cute, the girl's hot; they seem like actual people thrown into extraordinary circumstances. There are just enough "boo!" moments to make you appreciate a seatmate willing to have his or her arm squeezed.
Audiences also benefit from seeing Neal McDonough in a role where he doesn't have to play second banana to a bigger star. McDonough plays the New Mexico State Police lieutenant who quickly realizes the two naive college kids couldn't be capable of the horrific murders they appear to be committing.
Quite simply, the only reason for this movie to exist is to pad the resumes of director Meyers (whose previous experience includes music videos and TVcommercials) and its young stars. If you'd care to join the ranks of moviegoers who clamor for new stories and fresh ideas, send Hollywood the message. They understand the language of ticket sales.