Starring Kari Wuhrer, Jake Busey, and C. Thomas Howell. Directed by Louis Morneau.
The Hitcher was one of the most shocking suspense movies ever made (see my review for more on that). Apparently, this was the best they could do to honor it. The Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting is a 2003 (that's seventeen years, folks), straight-to-video follow up to the 1986 classic. What we have here is essentially a re-hash of the original, without any of the substance that made the original great. There aren't characters we can cheer for, there's no one to root for. Probably the only thing keeping this from a 1/10 is the fact that C. Thomas Howell had the balls to reprise his original role.
All these years after the original, Jim Halsey (Howell) is still haunted by what he went through. He's now a cop, with a bad habit of shooting the bad guys before an arrest can even be attempted. Howell is hollow this time around, and no doubt meant to be, but whatever lure his character had is now gone, leaving no room for us to connect with him. After a clever and inventive opening scene, the whole film trumbles unmercifully downhill. Kari Wuhrer plays Jim's girlfriend, Maggie, who is convinced he needs a break from his work. So, the two plan a visit to Captain Esterige, the sheriff who helped Jim near the climax of the original film (different actor, and they don't try to hide it). So, of all the places to vacation, Jim decides it's time to put the past behind him and drive down that same stretch of road from the original film. Oops.
While her character doesn't suck at times, one can't help but think Maggie was added to the roster just so the writers could say "see! It's not exactly the same!" Anyway, the film REALLY starts to dive when we are introduced to Jack, our hitcher. The writers make no attempt to explain who Jack is or where he came from, and not in a good way. He clearly knows who Jim is, but explains nothing. The only thing that's hinted at is the possibility that he is the reincarnation (uh-huh) of the original's John Ryder, and that would be the biggest insult the first film could receive.
If you check my review of the original, I note more than once that Rutger Hauer in the original Hitcher is one of the most brutal, unforgiving and incredible madmen ever to appear on film. So this time, the hitcher is played by Jake Busey.... and yes, that would be Gary Busey's son. Busey's hitcher is written to emulate the original, but whereas Ryder was cold and determined, this hitcher is hammy and lame. Jake Busey is so over-the-top that one can't even begin to fear him, or even be mildly intimidated. He attempts to frame them in a shallow mockery of the original's plot, with an ending that (by being essentially the same) slaps the original's in the face.
The only real originality comes with Maggie. Jim is (mercifully) shot early in the film, making his girl the madman's target. It is she who must overcome all odds to beat the guy, who has no reason for doing this, and there's barely room for her character to grow, as she's kind of been a bitch the whole time. Almost embarassingly, the basis of this plot was borrowed for the 2007 remake of The Hitcher.
Just like the acting father-son duo of Gary & Jake, avoid this film at all costs. Curiosity drove me to check it out because the original was a masterpiece, but let me assure you, the only horror you'll find here is Busey, trumbling between normal Busey-crazy, and acting hitcher-crazy.