You're stranded and alone on the side of the highway and, wouldn't you know it, your cell phone hasn't had a single bar for three straight hours. It's a gloomy, miserable night, and the torrential rain isn't helping you feel any better. Do you stick out your thumb to hitch a ride?
How about if you're the driver? Is picking up a hitchhiker another high-stakes way to play Russian roulette?
That's the question we posed to stars of the new movie "The Hitcher," a remake of the 1986 horror classic starring Rutger Hauer. You'll have no luck getting a lift from leading lady Sophia Bush — the 24-year-old actress insists that her "rule of thumb" is just to drive on by.
"I have a rule, and it's still the same rule after the movie: I have the highway patrol in my contacts list and I call them up if I see somebody stranded and ask them to dispatch an officer," she said. "They get help, I don't get slaughtered. I like to help people, but at the same time, I like to keep my trachea in my throat."
But is the likelihood of getting your throat slit that prevalent? Not according to "California Crimes and Accidents Associated With Hitchhiking," an oft-cited report by the California Highway Patrol that showed hitchhikers are in no more danger of being hurt than the general population. Problem is, that report was published in 1974.
"No picking up people; just keep on driving," co-star Zachary Knighton reiterated. "The original [movie] just terrified me. It killed any ideas of picking up hitchhikers. There's got to be some kind of statistic out there."
There's not. No further studies. No statistics. No recent data to discover just how safe hitchhiking is. But Knighton is right in at least one respect — anecdotal evidence suggests hitchhiking is not nearly as common in the United States as it once was. Director Dave Meyers says that has a lot to do with the original film.
"The original 'Hitcher' was in the bloodstream of the whole culture. It's why we don't pick up hitchhikers anymore," he argued. "When we talked about doing a remake of it, we already [had] a culture of people who understand not to pick up people in the rain. So we addressed that in the film by having it more complicated and more believable and real."
Those changes include giving new villain Sean Bean a seat in the car without actually having to hitch at all. Not that Bean thinks he'll have any more luck in real life, especially after his portrayal of the psychopathic killer in this movie.
"People do have that subconscious thing. [They] remember you through roles you've played," Bean said laughing. "They don't know where I'm from or why they feel like that, [but they think], 'Sh--, there's something funny about him.' "
Bean — whom Bush called "the guy [who] could totally be James Bond" and Knighton equated to "Jaws ... because he keeps coming and coming" — admitted to having "flashbacks to the original" movie. "I must have seen it about 20 years ago," Bean said. "I went to see it with my girlfriend at the time and remember it made quite a big impression on us."
The lack of statistical evidence may in itself prove that hitchhiking is safer than generally thought, because there's nothing newsworthy about it to study or report. It's for this reason, concluded Meyers, that the tone of the new film had to be changed from straight-out horror (in which Hauer represented all hitchers) to a thriller (in which Bean is seen as a crazy anomaly).
"Once you get past [hitchhiking], it's a fun psychological thriller for teens," he contended. "You have horror films for teens, but you don't really have this [type of] film."
Comforting to know, perhaps, for those rainy nights by the side of the road.
Check out everything we've got on "The Hitcher."
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