More than fifteen years after the release of the classic horror thriller known simlply as "The Hitcher," a sequel has been birthed directly to video. They even managed to lure C. Thomas Howell out of his cave to give this thoughtless rehash some semblance of prestige. His character (surely you remember poor Jim Halsey) dies before making any tangible contributions to the plot, but there's no denying that it's C. Thomas Howell. I'd recognize that jittery countenance anywhere. But I'm reluctant to dwell on the negative aspects of Louis Morneau's "The Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting." It feels a lot like stealing candy from a baby, for one thing. But that doesn't leave us with much to discuss. If I strain to overlook the fact that Howell seems positively bored with the whole damn business, and that he dies less than halfway in--and if I momentarily table the inescapable conclusion that not only is Jake Busey no Rutger Hauer but that he doesn't have even one remotely frightening moment in this picture--and, if I can manage to avoid dwelling on the fact that it's implied in the film that Busey's character is in fact the same character played by Hauer in the original...well, there is always Kari Wuhrer's performance to cling to. She truly runs with this thing, bless her heart. She gives it her all, which is considerable. In stark contrast to the modern trend of action heroines who fearlessly kick the ass of evil, Wuhrer brings a touch of subtlety to the character of Maggie, Howell's love interest. She's scared, all right. Terrified, in fact, through most of the movie, but she kicks the ass of evil (or Busey's stand-up rendition of evil, anyway) in spite of her fear . My guess is that she basically decided to play the part the way Howell played his part in the first film. The stable of writers on "Hitcher II" tried to put Maggie through a similar progression to what Halsey went through in "The Hitcher." Wuhrer just doesn't have the luxury of working from Eric Red's script, which was a fiddle string compared to this mess.
Another reason I'm hesitant to cast barbs at this mediocre movie, is that I try my damnedest to avoid sequels. When I occasionally topple from that wagon, I have no one to blame but myself when I get caught up under the wheels. But for cryin' out loud, it's the sequel to "The Hitcher" we're talking about here! What an unexpected treat it was to learn that the idea of a sequel was even being considered. It's one thing to read about an impending sequel to a recent blockbuster, and quite another to discover this kind of far out news. I was naively quick to think that Jake Busey might be able to invoke a bit of spontaneous genetic thespianism, but again, that was my own damn fault for admiring his father's contribution to "Silver Bullet," which would have had trouble staying afloat without him.
I ought to be used to the kind of disappointment I felt upon first viewing "Hitcher II." It happens often enough. But every now and then I'm captivated by a sudden and alarming desire to believe that all is right with the world, that for the first time since "The Wrath of Khan" a sequel is going to outshine its predecessor. It hasn't happened here, folks. There's nothing to see, move along.
Far more interesting than the disappointing sequel to Robert Harmon's 1986 masterpiece, though, is the British DVD release of the original film. And what more fitting place could there be to bury the following nugget than in a review of an obscure horror sequel like "Hitcher II," for if you've read this far you're likely a "Hitcher" enthusiast and may well want to get your hands on a multi-region DVD player by the time you've finished this paragraph. "The Hitcher" is also available on DVD in the States, don't get me wrong, but you won't get much more than the film itself. Why we're letting the Brits beat us at the game of "value added," I'll never understand, but in the immortal words of Jordy Verrill, "I'll be dipped in shit" if they haven't put out about the handsomest 2-disc set of "The Hitcher" that any fan could want. Disc 2 sports a 39-minute documentary loaded with interview footage, Harmon's 34-minute short film, "China Lake," and an 11-minute film by (and starring) none other than Rutger Hauer. Not to mention the plentitude of commentary that can be called up on both discs.
Filmfodder Grade: D