It opens serenely on a quiet field. A single rabbit appears. It casually hops along, eventually stumbling upon the side of a highway. Unsuspecting, the innocent bunny wanders onto the road, where it is promptly blindsided by a car and pulverized into a bloody mess.

Though this comically transparent symbolism, orchestrated by director Dave Meyers, is a reference to the impending doom of “The Hitcher’s” hapless protagonists, the allegory would be better applied to the film’s viewers – having been unwisely lured into the theater by the undeniable attraction of shameless commercialism, their subsequent fate is as intellectual roadkill.

“The Hitcher,” a remake of the 1986 thriller, tells the story of Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton, “Cherry Falls”) and Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush, “One Tree Hill”), a young couple on their way to a promising spring break. During a downpour, they stop at a remote gas station and foolishly pick up a hitchhiker by the conveniently emblematic name of John Ryder (Sean Bean, “Lord of the Rings”). When the stranger quickly turns hostile, Jim and Grace narrowly escape and – again, foolishly – think they’re safe from the psychopath. Ryder, of course, still has morbid plans for the couple, and before long they, and we, are in the middle of a never-ending nightmare.

It’s now safe to say that the ubiquitous and typically villainous Sean Bean must hate his career. After a role in arguably one of the most successful trilogies of all time, Bean has somehow involved himself in such cinematic mishaps as “Flightplan” and “Silent Hill.” Agreeing to play a serial killer in a teenage horror romp, however, is the grand-daddy of Hollywood blunders. Especially with a director known only for his MTV music videos (Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open,” Britney’s “Lucky”) at the helm.

Newcomers Zachary Knighton and the beautiful Sophia Bush are forgettable as the hapless duo, but it’s not as if they have much to do anyway. “The Hitcher’s” inevitable downfall is its total idiocy – OK, so the mysterious hitchhiker is a psychopathic stalker, but what drives him to kill? We’re not asking for serious psychological depth here. It’s enough that the antagonists in “Hostel” just want money and that the “Saw” trilogy’s Jigsaw is simply an obsessive vigilante. John Ryder, on the other hand, is motivated by nothing. He stares, growls and seethes as an empty, and ultimately dull, embodiment of evil, and for the modern audience already desensitized to senseless violence, it’s simply not enough when villains kill just for the sake of killing.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

The Hitcher
At the Showcase and Quality 16

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