'The Hitcher' is the latest in a series of recent remakes of classic horror films - think 'The Omen', 'Dawn Of The Dead', 'The Fog' - geared to a generation of teenagers that aren't old enough to have caught them first time 'round. Unfortunately, any imagination involved must have been used up figuring out what film to buy the remake rights for. The smaller details - decent scripts, solid characters and breath-holding suspense - seem to have gotten lost somewhere along the way and 'The Hitcher' isn't going to break the mould in any of those respects.
C Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer starred in the 1986 original as, respectively, a young man driving across the country and the psycho killer that sits in beside him; Jennifer Jason Leigh had a lesser, although still notable, role as a waitress that he meets along the way. In the car this time are a nubile young couple - Jim (newcomer Knighton) and Grace (Bush, already familiar to many from 'One Tree Hill' and last year's 'John Tucker Must Die'). On their way to see friends over spring break, they inadvertently pick up hitchhiker John Ryder (Bean).
Needless to say, despite the fake wedding ring that he wears, he turns out to be a murderous psychopath who quickly has a knife at Grace's throat. Although Jim manages to kick him out of the car, it's not long before he's back, playing a grim game of cat and mouse with the couple. As well as terrorising Jim and Grace, he also manages to frame them for a series of murders so that they end up fleeing from the law as well as from Ryder himself.
There's a deep level of silliness in 'The Hitcher', which is not helped by Bean having to keep a straight face while pulling off a fierce performance as a lone and very efficient weapon of mass destruction. He single-handedly decimates the local police force, unerringly tracks Jim and Grace wherever they go, all the time motivated by... what, exactly?
Knighton and Bush spent the most of the film's 83-minute running time making standard teen horror flick bad decisions - and then whining about it to each other. Neither character has any more than one dimension and Bush's final transformation from ditsy college girl into narrow-eyed avenger is simply unbelievable. For those who remember the original, this time there's a slightly different slant on the grisly set piece involving two huge trucks and a couple of lengths of chain.
Implausible and nonsensical, there's not much reason to recommend 'The Hitcher'. The original, however, is out on DVD...