OCTOBER 19, 2007
Look, you know what? Fuck you. I like The Hitcher remake. Can you really blame Jake Wade Wall and Eric Bernt for dropping the homoerotic subtext of the original and replacing it with a female lead (especially one as mind bogglingly cute as Sophia Bush)? Look at what happens to any horror movie nowadays that includes a dose of subtlety or metaphor: They tank. Personally, I think catering to an audience is fine every now and then, as long as it’s enjoyable. Like the saying goes "Steak is better, but every now and then, you want a Big Mac."
Like McDonald's, the film is delicious even though you know it's crap. Besides, any moment Bush is onscreen, the film is more than simply watchable, and as it gets more and more ridiculous (where the hell does that dropped car come from?), it just gets more and more hilariously fun. I don’t think anyone involved thought to make any sort of realistic or thought provoking film, so why should it be dismissed because it isn’t? I don’t think I need to point out again that a film simply being a remake isn’t nearly enough of a reason to hate it. And come on, can anyone honestly say that The Hitcher II had more respect for the source material? At least this movie has the good sense to cast an actual actor in the role of the Hitcher, instead of the son of a guy whose real life persona is pretty much the model of such types of characters.
I’d like to dedicate the next paragraph to the movie’s “memorable” soundtrack. First off, Steve Jablonsky’s score is actually quite good (sadly unavailable on CD), which was a nice surprise since his work on The Island was god awful (one thing a Bay film will otherwise always have is a memorable, powerful score). But it’s almost obliterated by the licensed music peppered liberally throughout the film. We begin with what appears to be a 10 minute version of All American Rejects sing-along “Move Along”, and when it finally ends, we soon thereafter hear a radio DJ say “Here’s a classic from David Soul” (!!!) before “Don’t Give Up On Us Baby”. Then there’s some obscure David Gray/Matthews tunes, and finally the film’s raison d’etre – a laugh out loud action montage (one that’s already ridiculous enough) set to Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer”. Hilariously, at the first screening I went to (I saw this 3x in theaters!), director Dave Meyers told the crowd that they had just finished the film the day before. I asked what the last thing was, and he said it was securing the rights to use the song. Considering that it was the final straw for many of the people who saw (and ultimately disliked) the film, I found this to be some delightful trivia. And hey, there’s your homoerotic subtext – the “I want to fuck you like an animal!” line comes right as the Hitcher drives his car directly into a cop’s, PENETRATING him if you will. Happy now?
The movie is also occasionally intentionally hilarious. The gas station attendant is a particular highlight, and Neal McDonough’s colorful profanity (“You gotta be five finger fucking me!”) is always a delight. And there’s some nice black humor, such as the blood spattered children’s book titled “Will I Go To Heaven”. And the “I’m horny” line/response more than makes up for the film’s one major scene omission from the original (the diner scene).
If the film has one real flaw, it’s the guy playing Bush’s boyfriend. He’s not bad, but he’s very bland (sort of a 2nd date Jared Padalecki). If they wanted an average looking guy with messy hair to play a guy who drives a car and is in love with Sophia Bush, I can certainly think of at least one better, likely cheaper, option. Also, Bean doesn’t get to really chew the scenery as much as I would have liked – only in the film’s final 20 minutes (particularly in his interrogation scene) does his casting really pay off.
The DVD is sans commentary, which bums me out as I enjoyed listening to Meyers talk at the screening/junket, and I think he’s definitely one of the better music video directors to come along in a while. Say what you will about the script, but you can’t tell me the film isn’t stylish and well made, nor is it hyper-edited or hand-cranked to the point of incoherency, like the films of many of his peers. Granted, it’s pretty difficult to NOT make the southwest US look beautiful, but his and DP James Hawkinson’s work here is still far above average. Instead, there are some alternate endings of no real difference, and some other fluff. Then again, since I like the film solely for being mindless fun, I guess I can’t complain that the DVD features aren’t exactly Shakespearean.
Like the Dawn of the Dead remake, some folks trash it simply for ignoring the subtext of the original, but here it seems more apparent since they are sticking so closely to the beats of the original film (so much that original writer Eric Red, who had nothing to do with the remake at all, is given screenwriting credit instead of the usual “Based on characters created by” or whatever credit). I can give it that, but really, that’s not the film they are making this time around. This is a popcorn “ride” of a film, stripped of all pretense, designed solely to entertain. And it does. For me, anyway. At least they didn’t spend half the film explaining why the Hitcher killed and then having him act in a manner that contradicted those reasons in the other half.
What say you?