Sunday, August 30, 2009

Compare & Contrast: The Hitcher

(Originally written on 5/20/07)

Sometime ago on the blog I posted a rant about how Hollywood isn't original and the only things they're coming up with are remakes of older classic movies. I know, that's nothing new, but I was complaining about how they were remaking a movie from the 80's, which made me feel incredibly old since I was born in 1980 and this movie came out in 1986 when I was only 6 years old!!! Gee, thanks Hollywood.

Of course I'm talking about "The Hitcher". But I have a small confession to make. I did see "The Hitcher" (the "original")...back in 1987 when it was on cable. Seeing as that was 20 years ago and I barely remember what I did five hours ago, I don't really know if I like the original or not.

Yeah, I shouldn't have ranted about a movie I barely remember or even know if I like, but it was about the principle of the thing, dammit.

But now that the "2007" version is out on DVD, I can finally take a look for myself in a new piece I'm calling



Throughout the course of today I will be watching both the 1986 version, and the 2007 version of "The Hitcher", and posting the similarities and differences between them. Who would do something like this? A movie geek with too much free time on his hands.

This one starts off with Jim, played by C. Thomas Howell (if this doesn't scream 'this was made in the 80's' I dunno what does), driving at night in Texas. He falls asleep at the wheel and almost gets Dodged by a Ram.

He spots a hitchhiker on the side of the road and I guess decides to pick him up to keep him company so he'll stay awake. Me? If I saw Rutger Hauer on the side of the road I would keep on driving. (Poor Mr. Hauer, if his car ever breaks down and he needs help, no one's gonna ever stop and help him cause of this movie). But Jim, realizing the movie needs to continue, picks him up.

Rutger introduces himself as John Ryder and almost immediately starts acting weird. He doesn't say where he's going and is just sitting there sneezing and smoking. Eventually he lets on that he killed some guy and he plans on doing the same to Jim. All Jim does is pull over and say "get out!!" John then goes "Uh..I mean...I need gas" and Jim goes "Oh. Why didn't you say so?" and continues driving.

Eventually though, John lets on that he's really crazy by putting a knife up to Jim's balls and says he'll let them go if Jim says four words, which are "I wanna die". Yeah, it's technically three words, but whatever. Jim notices that John didn't close the door all the way, so he makes a hard right which knocks John out of the car. Jim celebrates his victory by honking his horn like crazy.

Later, Jim is still enjoying his victory when he passes by a family in their car. Jim smiles at them and is all happy and wonderful...until he notices John in the backseat! Jim then starts acting like a maniac and frantically tries to warn the family but they think he's crazy and lets him get hit by a bus, which he does.

If this was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, the story would end there, but since this is a movie, Jim is ok and he frantically drives away, looking for the family. He finds the car later and we don't see any bodies or anything but we can imagine the carnage.

Jim then speeds away looking for help and he finds it in the form of a closed down gas station. John is there and he just simply throws Jim's car keys at him and he gets a ride from someone else. Jim drives to yet ANOTHER closed down gas station (Jeez, I thought getting gas nowadays was rough) but this time John just drives on through it with the truck that picked him up at the first gas station.

This movie gets rather silly with John always being 3 steps ahead of Jim, as if he somehow knows where he's gonna be and is just there waiting for him. And it's even sillier when he just crashes through the gas station.

As a result of the gas pumps being destroyed, and Jim now covered in gas, John lights a match and blows the whole thing up. Jim escapes with his car aflame.

Probably normally the car would've exploded but it didn't. Instead we meet Jennifer Jason Leigh's character Nash (she has some nice bridges, if you know what I mean) as she opens up the diner she works for. Jim comes around begging to come in to use the phone. Nash reluctantly agrees. Jim calls the police and tells them where he's at and then washes up. Nash has prepared a nice cheeseburger for him. While talking and waiting, Jim finds a finger in his fries. Man, someone's getting a call from the health department in the morning.

Jim runs out, throwing up when the police pull up. They think HE'S the one killing people and blowing up gas stations left and right so they arrest him. While searching him, they find John's knife. You're probably thinking "How the hell did he put his knife in Jim's pocket?" And I came up with a solution while I was pondering this. When Jim stopped at the first gas station and John just merely gave him his car key's. The movie doesn't really explore this too much though, so it's only a theory.

Jim is interrogated and thrown into a cell. Later, he notices his cell door is open and he wanders out. He finds all the cops at the station are dead. More cops show up and Jim escapes with a pistol and he wanders off into the desert. He finds a phone booth and is calling someone when two cops appear. Jim pulls his gun on them and makes them take him to The Captain.

Jim talks to The Captain telling him he isn't the murderer and the Captain said he'll help him out if he turns himself in. Jim then thanks him when all out of nowhere, at that particular moment in time, John rides up and kills the cops. I think they're trying to say John is God or something. Jim escapes and is contemplating suicide when he gets inspiration by the clouds or something and doesn't.

Jim finds yet ANOTHER diner (Texas: Nothing but Desert, Gas Stations which are empty, and Diners) and while sitting in a booth, God appears in the form of John Ryder. John tells Jim the gun is empty and he gives him the bullets and simply leaves.

Jim then sees a Greyhound bus pull in and he decides to sneak on to use the can or something. Inside, he puts the bullets in the gun when people get back on the bus and it leaves. While sitting in the back he notices Nash and forces her into the bathroom. He tells her he isn't a crazy murderer, despite him holding a gun to her head in a cramped Greyhound bus.

The police pull the bus over and Jim says he's gonna give himself up, which he does. But we are now in the part of Texas where the cops don't give a shit and just wanna kill people left and right. So they treat Jim less than kindly and is probably two minutes away from raping him when Nash picks up the gun Jim had and steals the cop car and they head out.

Nash gets on the radio begging to be let go so they can turn themselves in but the assholes say fuck you and shoot them. A stylish 10 minute car chase ensues. All the asshole cops are dead and things look to be ok when a helicopter shows up. But because John is God he shows up and shows his Godly powers by shooting down a helicopter with a simple hand gun. I tried that on Grand Theft Auto and if I can't do something in a video game, it should be harder to do in a movie. But the helicopter crashes and John ascends into heaven.

Jim and Nash pull into a trucker hotel and Nash pretends to sleep to see if Jim is gonna rape her or something. But Jim instead takes a shower. While doing that John just magically appears in the hotel room and kidnaps Nash. Jim realizes this and runs out to save her. But the cops show up and tell Jim "Oh, it's ok now. We know you didn't do it. John has Nash tied up between two trucks and he's driving one, threatening to tear her apart. Go in and stop him."

So Jim does and John just wants him to shoot him but Jim won't cause then he'll let go of the break pedal when he does. John goes "Pussy" and lets go of the break pedal anyway.

I know, I was all "Wtf??" too.

So now that Jim is cleared of all charges and John is in custody, things SHOULD be alright. But no. It's not. While taking John to prison and the Captain is taking Jim....somewhere, John SOMEHOW gets out of his handcuffs and kills his guards. Jim steals The Captain's gun and drives away. He finds the bus carrying John and the final showdown ensues.

John jumps into the truck Jim is in but Jim does the whole "hit the break pedal so John flies out of the car" thing and that works, until John gets up and starts blasting the hell out of the truck. Jim runs John over but that doesn't even stop him so Jim finally fills John with shotgun bullets. The ending credits run while Jim stands by the truck in an artsy shot, smoking a cigarette.

Despite the silliness and having John just pop up randomly, I did like this version a lot. With that out of the way, let's see how the remake holds up.

Ok. Now that you know what happened in the original, I can more or less skip over the identical parts and point out the differences.

First off, there are two main characters, Jim and his girlfriend Grace. They're leaving from somewhere to go to somewhere and the entire movie takes place in New Mexico. I was dying to know if New Mexico had the same amount of closed gas stations and diners as Texas. Sadly, we don't find out.

While Jim and Grace are on the road one night, they almost run over John Ryder, played this time by Sean Bean. They realize they've seen this movie before and leave his ass back there. They pull up to a gas station and while getting gas, John shows up and acts like a nice guy who is having car trouble. John asks Jim for a ride and being put on the spot, he agrees.

The same exact line of dialogue is used except he puts the knife up to Grace's eyeball. And sadly, the door isn't ajar, Grace has to open it and Jim kicks him out.

Another family picks up John but this time it's a CHRISTIAN family. Cause they're the only people who'll pick up hitchhikers in this day and age. While trying to warn them, Jim and Grace fly off the highway "Dukes of Hazzard" style and their car is totaled.

While walking they find the station wagon and we see dead bodies this time around. Except the father is still alive, so they use the station wagon to get help. They stop at a diner where a waitress decides to be a bitch and tell the police murderers are there instead of saying people are dead.

The police show up, arrest Grace and Jim, and Jim is put in the cell while Grace is interrogated. Then we yet again get a scene with Grace roaming the station free while all the cops are dead. How Jim or Grace didn't hear the shooting is beyond me.

Grace finds Jim in the cell and lets him go and much like the original high-tails it out of there. And since there's a female character travelling with Jim now, we gotta have a scene where they bicker for five minutes about who's fault this whole situation is.

But something different happens for once! John throws a truck off a cliff and it lands within inches from Grace. I was kinda excited to see something kinda sorta new! And different!

Oh and to further make this different, we see things from the cops point of view as they arrive at the police station. The Captain shows up and he knows that Jim and Grace didn't do it. So...yay for that!! But while they're running from John in a junkyard (this scene went on 10 minutes longer than it should've), a cop shows up and Jim tries to talk to him but the cop tries to arrest him. Grace shows up with the gun and holds the cop hostage. While trying to get out of there, John with a sniper rifle (Which won't ever be seen again) shoots the cop, which makes it look like Grace did it.

The chase scene occurs but it's not as cool as the original. And it's set to Nine Inch Nail's "Closer". Oh but this time, all the cops see John come up and shoot them all, so now the Captain believes Jim and Grace aren't responsible.

Instead of us using our imaginations and assuming they just got a hotel room, we spend five minutes seeing them break into one. They shower and Jim says he's gonna get help. After awhile, John suddenly appears (This character is suppose to be God or the Devil or something I swear) and attacks Grace in the room. But he suddenly leaves.

While looking for Jim, Grace finds him in the position Nash was in in the original. What a cop-out! So it's up to Grace to stop him, but the same exact lines of dialogue is exchanged and John lets go of the break. But this time we see Jim torn in half!!

We also learn that John Ryder is the name of one of the Hitcher's victims, so we really don't learn his name. Same exact thing, interrogated, taken into a truck, Grace is in a truck with the Captain, etc. Except this time The Captain and Grace (I bet Tenille was jealous) are behind the truck with John.

John breaks his hand to get the cuff's off and we know these guards are doomed when they start talking about their 5 year old daughter. God, don't screenwriters ever learn? Never have characters talk about their kids, it just tells us what you have planned.

Anyway, John manages to kill all the guards and an El Camino appears all out of nowhere, crashing into the truck and the truck The Captain and Grace were in. Captain is stuck and Grace steals his gun to face off with John. This face off isn't as cool, I'm sad to say.

John gets out, locks Grace into the truck, and sets it on fire. He shoots the Captain but Grace manages to find a shotgun and shoots her way out of the truck. Then she shoots John like 900 times, but for some dumb-ass reason he's wearing a bulletproof vest. Eventually, Grace shoots him in the head and...that's about it. She walks away and it's the end. Well, that sure was uninspired.

This version isn't as good as the original, even though the same exact things happen. The addition of a female makes it more annoying cause you know there's gonna be fighting and is only there to provide a reason for Jim to protect her, instead of it being a fight for freedom like the original. And Sean Bean is no Rutger Hauer, he doesn't have the same intensity. This whole entire movie was like a music video, and the reason for that is because it was directed by Dave Meyers, who directs music videos. I knew I was in trouble when the cover boasts "FROM THE PRODUCERS OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE!", and I'm sure they meant the shitty remake. Which...was produced by Michael Bay. Ohh...that explains a lot.

So with those out of the way, let's compare and contrast!

-Rutger Hauer is a much more menacing name than Sean Bean. Sean Bean may be an ok actor, but he's not as scary as Mr. Hauer is. And see, I feel the need to call him Mr. Hauer in case he finds this site, finds where I lives, and tries to beat me senseless. Whereas I can call Sean Bean by his first name and the most threatened I'll feel is if he offers to dance The Macarena.
-We don't need any immediate backstory on Jim in the original. We start off with him driving, he picks up a crazy hitchhiker, boom! We're in. The remake felt the need to set up all this backstory that doesn't even figure into the plot. And now that I think about it, he wasn't really hitchhiking in the remake. He was just standing there by a stalled car.
-The addition of a female character in the remake hurt the story a bit. In the original, the female didn't come in until the middle of the story and was just there to help out the main character. Then she got herself into the whole mess by defending him. Whereas Grace is also a victim and is just there so Jim has a reason to run and defend himself.
-We really didn't need to see the cops point of view on all the stuff happening. We were better off thinking "Oh, how is he gonna get out of this if the entire state is after him?" instead of "Oh they think they did it, no wait they don't." It adds to the helplessness if the cops think the characters are the cold-blooded killers.
-The original's ending is better cause Jim had to go out of his way to stop John and making us wonder how he knew he was gonna eventually get free. It was just lazy screen writing to have Grace just happen to be there when he escaped. And you already knew in the remake that Grace was gonna win, whereas the original had you wondering until the very end.
-The original didn't need pop songs to be played during the action scenes. Enough said.

The clear winner is the original 1986 version, hands down. Why they felt the need to remake this is beyond me? I mean did we really need a version of "The Hitcher" to include music by All-American Rejects and Nine Inch Nails?
No. No we don't.

The Hitcher (1986):

The Hitcher (2007):


1 comment:

Tommy Salami said...

Some remakes feel like they took new actors and trapped them in the original, and then changed anything that would be cool to see done nowadays. This sounds like one of them.

The original wasn't even that good, the kid's such a gigantic pussy.