A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this remake of a 1986 horror film about a ruthless killer is violent and bloody from beginning to end. Bloody bodies, body parts, and splats of blood appear repeatedly. Weapons include knives, handguns, shotguns. Cars crash and flip over. Assaults are brutal and gratuitous (a rabbit is killed at start of movie, just because). There are images of gunshots to foreheads, and a stabbing victim lingers for some time, gasping and praying as his chest spurts blood. The goriest bits include a body ripped in half between two trucks (in the original movie, this was implied; here, it's shown) and a shotgun assault. Some fairly mild sexual scenes and strong language, including about 40 uses of "f--k," plus other profanity and sexual slang.
What's the story?
A college student named Jim (Zachary Knighton) embarks on a road trip with his girlfriend Grace (Sophia Bush). Within minutes, they meet a dark stranger who calls himself John Ryder (Sean Bean). Ryder is implacable and unknowable. Ryder's first assault, in Jim and Grace's car after they agree to give Ryder a lift -- even though she knows they shouldn't -- leads Jim to believe that he can best the monster physically. But Grace gets the feeling that this won't be the case, so they spend the rest of the movie trying to get away from him.
Is it any good?
Bloody and pretty much relentless, the 2007 version of THE HITCHER offers little in the way of innovation. Some of the set pieces from the 1986 original remain intact: Jim and Grace see Ryder again on the road, in a station wagon ("Honk if You Love Jesus") with pretty blond kids and pleasant parents. And they have to deal with local cops who think they're responsible for Ryder's grisly murders (owing to Ryder's not-so-ingenious trail of bodies and clues).
As the kids do their best to elude this monster -- who, once again, is capable of anything, even apparently throwing a truck at them from the sky -- erstwhile music video director Dave Meyers' signature cleverness is visible mostly in some not-so-original stylistic details. These include bloody close-ups of spiders, a bloodied copy of the children's book Will I Go to Heaven?, hectic handheld camerawork, The Birds playing on a motel TV, and some obvious musical cues (David Soul's "classic" "Don't Give Up on Us Babe" plays on the car radio, while Nine Inch Nails' more graphic lyrics accompany a brutal sequence). As Grace becomes a version of Ryder, her metamorphosis does recall that of the original film's Jim. But here it's too often turned into hot-chick-with-a-gun clichés: She wears a miniskirt and boots, and she absolutely knows how to handle firearms, from handguns to shotguns. She's also a little too convincing when she asserts at last, "I don't feel anything." If Grace hasn't been here before, viewers most certainly have.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the characters change over the course of the movie -- particularly Grace. How does she become hardened by her experience with John Ryder? Families who've seen the original can also compare the two. What's different about this version? How do the changes reflect how media standards and culture has changed over the past 20 years? Why do you think they decided to remake this movie in the first place?
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