Original Vs Remake The Hitcher
Welcome to Original Vs Remake, the place where Horror Remakes go head to head with their Original. Was the Remake an abysmal failure at the box office? Did the Original have a smaller budget? Which received the best reviews? All will be revealed here in the ultimate showdown!
Today’s Contenders are ; The Hitcher (1986) Vs The Hitcher (2007). Ready? 3,2,1 FIGHT!
The Hitcher (1986)
Release Date : 21st February 1986
Cast : Rutger Hauer, C.Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Directer : Robert Harmon
Writer : Eric Red
Studio :HBO Pictures/Silver Screen Partners
Budget : $5.8 Million
Domestic total Gross : $5,844,868
Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 59% Rotten
The Hitcher began its life within the mind of twenty year old writer Eric Red, who came up with the concept of the film after repeat listenings of The Doors song Riders on The Storm on a cross country car ride from New York to Texas. With no backing or connections (just a homemade short film, entitled Gunman’s Blues in his back pocket) Red began writing The Hitcher. Red’s enthusiasm for violence and gore would later become famous among those in Hollywood who read the script. The original screenplay was riddled with unrelenting bloody murder. When he had completed his script, Red sent letters to Hollywood producers proclaiming his script to a bloody thrill ride and stated ;
“It (the story) grabs you by the guts and does not let up and it does not let go. When you read it, you will not sleep for a week. When the movie is made, the country will not sleep for a week”.
Eventually one of his letters caught the attention of Script Development executive David Bombyk (he would later produce the film) who agreed to read the script. Bombyk balked at what he received ; a 190 page tome of violence and gore, he enlisted help from Kip Ohman (who would also produce the film) to rework the script and bring more coherency to the violence. They kept Red in the fold and he moved to L.A to work on the script with them.
They sent their finished script to 20th Century Fox, who claimed to love it and agreed to come on board but would later back out during pre production over budget disputes. From there the film played hot potato jumping from Universal Pictures to Warner Brothers, Orion and New World Pictures, never leaving the negotiation stage. Each time there was one particular element of the script that halted talks, the death of female love interest Nash ; by being ripped in half (this scene would later also cause great consternation during production). Each time executives indicated that the scene would have to go for them to be involved and each time debut director Robert Harmon who had come on board to direct the film, stood by the scene as did the producers.
It was a stalemate, until independent producer Donna Dubrow got the film in the door with Silver Screen Partners/HBO. Chairman Michael Fuchs agreed to take on the film but with the promise that the girl would not be ripped in half, this time probably sensing their luck running out, the film makers took the deal. Thus began a tug of war throughout production between the filmmakers and the studio over the scene of Nash being ripped in half, it was said to have overshadowed the whole production. With the producers and directors claiming to have received hundreds of notes suggesting ways to avoid Nash’s death or to soften it in some way, they even suggested giving her a funeral..By the time the shooting script was near completion with just the climatic ending to shoot, an agreement had not been reached. Harmon was apparently going to skip the scene once more in hopes of renegotiating the scene before final print and getting the death scene he wanted in reshoots, when the studio suddenly relented and said that they would allow the death of Nash by being pulled apart by a truck BUT her actual death must not be shown on screen. Harmon begrudgingly agreed to the comprise and shot the scene to their specifications. Thus giving us one of the most infuriating ‘shout at the screen’ moments in horror ; “ Cut the damn ropes” “Shoot the tires’’ “Do something!!”.
The film was released to 800 theaters and made 2.1 million in it’s opening weekend.Then came the reviews..Robert Ebert famously gave the film zero stars declaring it to be “diseased and corrupted”. Other reviewers followed suit accusing the film of being schlock horror that was trying to disguise itself as a Hitchcockian thriller. Much was made of the film’s violence and was it harshly derided for it.
The producers later said that they felt that the film’s failure derived from not showing the actual death of Nash, saying that robbing the audience of the gore of her death was anti-climatic and a let down.
The film went on to garner a loyal fan base over the years and despite the terrible critical reception upon its release and it is now seen by many to be a cult horror. It is a film that deserves a viewing, Rutgar Hauer gives menacing life to an incomprehensible villain and the film knows how to build tension.
The Hitcher (2007)
Release Date : 19th January 2007
Cast :Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton
Directer : Dave Meyers
Writers : Eric Bernt, Jake Wade Wall
Studio : Platinum Dunes
Budget : $10 million
Domestic total Gross : $16,472,961
Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 21% Rotten
Met with head shaking from its very conception The Hitcher remake wasn’t helped by being backed by Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes (who would go on to remake A Nightmare On Elm Street terribly). The 1986 original had aged surprisingly well, by 2007 it was a widely respected horror film that no longer carried with it the bad reviews it had suffered years before. News of a remake provoked some to partake in a little revisionist history calling the original Hitcher an untouchable classic (that’s not what the viewing figures in 1986 said) and there was much indignation at the idea of a redo. Original screenwriter Eric Red worked on the script as a consultant, in exactly which areas his influence took effect though remains unknown.
One of the first announcements made by Platinum Dunes in regard to the film was to reveal that Sean Bean would take on the role of John Ryder made famous by Rutger Hauer. The news was met by groans, many felt that ‘Baddie for hire Bean’ would not be able to match Hauer’s portrayal of calm insanity. Apparently one does not simply remake an iconic role..
Zachary Knighton took on the role of Jim Hasley in name only, as the character from the original was revamped as a college student road tripping with his girlfriend. The role of Nash disappeared to be replaced by Sophia Bush spunkily portraying a new character named Grace Andrews, Jim’s girlfriend. The film performed an inexplicable role reversal by having the male character (Jim) find himself meeting Nash’s fate of being ripped in half rather then the female character of Grace. And this time round everything was shown, no cut aways here. One can only assume that performing such brutality on ‘the fairer sex’ was still considered too extreme.
The film made $7,818,239 in it’s opening weekend debuting at number four in the box office chart. This was a healthy taking but after five weeks it was pulled from screens due to poor performance which was surely due to the terrible reviews the film was receiving. Critics slated the film and it earned one and two star reviews across the board, they criticized it for its violence and gore (something the original could lamentable relate to) and Sean Bean’s performance as the crazed killer was universally panned. I was was even swayed from plans to see to the remake in the cinema due to the sheer volume of negative reviews. Conversely and possibly controversially not seeing the film in the theater is a decision that I still regret. I assumed from the awful reviews that the film was offensively bad, after watching the film on DVD I was not left with this impression. Yes Bean’s portrayal of Ryder was so boring it could successfully put you to sleep and this is a rather fatal blow to the film considering how the story and action rest on the insanity of Ryder’s character. But the film holds no illusions ; it is a quick, bloody collection of jump scares and gore and it’s well aware of it. There are certain times when that is all you ask of a cinema visit and I feel somewhat robbed of the pleasure of experiencing a silly splatter fest on the big screen.
Overall The Hitcher garnered a very bad name for itself and Horror Remakes in general. Though I do feel that in hindsight in 2007 no one truly realized how bad the remake pandemic was going to get (Friday The 13th (2009) A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) et,al) and in comparison to dreck such as those, The Hitcher remake does not have quite so many sins to atone for.
The Winner :The Original
I’m calling TKO Technical Knock Out on this one. I’m pulling The Hitcher Remake out of the ring because it can’t defend itself, so its a win for the original. The original upon its release didn’t find an audience and was mauled by critics, the remake suffered the same fate (though it’s box office was considerably healthier) BUT the original recouped its losses (if only figuratively rather than monetarily ) by finding itself embraced by a new audience and gaining respect. The remake remains one of least respected films out there..so its TKO to The Original, the remake is too pummeled to fight.