HILLS HAVE EYES, THE
Retired detective Big Bob Carter (Ted Levine) bullies his daughter, a new mum, Lynn (Vinessa Shaw) and son in law Doug (Aaron Stanford) to join him and his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), teen daughter Brenda (Emilie De Ravin) and young son Bobby (Dan Byrd), on a road trip from Cleveland to California, via the desert of New Mexico. All aboard Big Bob's luxury trailer and along with their two German shepherds, the extended family takes short cut directions from the gruff owner of a remote gas station (Robert Joy), which is a dead end road - literally. Isolated and afraid, the family thinks the desert is the biggest danger to their health and safety, until the body count begins and the abandoned radiation-gnarled freaks of the barren hills demonstrate that they only have eyes for this fresh prey.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If Wes Craven's Scream is still echoing in your head and you like the sensation, catch a screaming of his re-production of his 1977 horror flick, The Hills Have Eyes, directed by his protégé, Alexandre Aja. The price of good genre horror is the drab, dreary, mundane bits in between the action, where the characters do very little, as the director ratchets up the tension with teasing glimpses of the hidden horror to come. But Aja keeps it to a minimum, using this down time (marking the characters and getting them safely into the danger zone) as a means of upping the ante.
Here, the in-laws have benignly kidnapped a reluctant Doug (Aaron Stanford) and his young family for a holiday road trip, the baby increasing the voltage of what's at risk. There also the two dogs, Beauty and Beast. All three (baby and dogs) play crucial parts in the ensuing conflict between the travellers and the folk in the hills, who live in this isolated, abandoned world, scavenging, like lepers of old - only nastier.
But I suppose what the core fans want to know is: is it really horror? The ayes have it. Aja seems to have joined James Wan (Saw), Eli Roth (Hostel) and Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) in pursuit of naturalistic and gruesome horror to revive the genre in its 21st century fury. All four films deposit their victims in an isolated environment and pile on the guilt before dispatching all or some of them in grisly fashion. In this film, the most favoured form of maiming or killing is impaling, by a variety of tools from pick axes to broken off baseball bats to screwdrivers (the latter into feet) and more. The alienation of the nasties is achieved by hideous deformities, the result of radiation caused by atomic testing around Los Alamos (whose research facility, The Lab, kindly provides the scary B&W stills that illustrate the opening credits), conducted by the US Department of Energy.
The political message is blunt, but it's never allowed to impede the bloody progress of a plot with so many radiating spokes. Needless to say, the more time passes since the atomic tests of the late 40s and 50s, the less potent this material is; but the treatment here overrides those issues with its creative flair. Obviously not a date movie - unless both parties get off on the splatter of clumsy feet.
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HILLS HAVE EYES, THE (MA)
CAST: Aaron Stanford, Ted Levine, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, Dan Byrd, Robert Joy
PRODUCER: Wes Craven, Peter Locke, Marianne Maddalena
DIRECTOR: Alexandre Aja
SCRIPT: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseu (1977 screenplay by Wes Craven)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Maxime Alexandre
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Joseph C Nemec III
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 20, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: August 23, 2006