THE HILLS HAVE EYES
*** (out of 5)
March 10, 2006
Aaron Stanford as DOUG BUKOWSKI
Kathleen Quinlan as ETHEL CARTER
Vinessa Shaw as LYNNE BUKOWSKI
Emilie de Ravin as BRENDA CARTER
Dan Byrd as BOBBY CARTER
Robert Joy as LIZARD
Ted Levine as BOB CARTER
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I saw the original “The Hills Have Eyes” years ago on video to watch with my parents and sister. Boy, that was a mistake – almost as big as choosing “The Last House on the Left” to watch with my girlfriend and mother. (Yup, both are true stories.)
Consider this a warning: “The Hills Have Eyes” isn’t the kind of movie to go see with your family… or your mother… or with your prayer-warrior girlfriend. “The Hills Have Eyes” is an intensely violent movie with graphic scenes of rape and murder. It’s one of the few movies where I actually watched people walk out of the theater.
It’s really hard to say that “The Hills Have Eyes” is a good movie. It’s extremely uncomfortable to watch. But I will say that it is well made. If you can get past the ultra-violent nature of it, you can enjoy it. Still, it’s a hard R rating, and expect an appropriately categorized unrated director’s cut to come out on DVD.
“The Hills Have Eyes” plays to a very specific audience. The ultra-violent, rape-murder-revenge audience will love it. If you’re not part of that crowd, avoid it, ‘cause it will make you ill. Seriously, there’s no danger of “The Hills Have Eyes” stealing any audience from “The Shaggy Dog” this weekend. If you go to this film thinking it might be a fun horror movie like “Final Destination 3” or “When a Stranger Calls,” you’ll be sorry.
The movie is about the dumbest family in the universe who, on the advice of some creepy guy at a gas station, takes a deserted road detour in the middle of New Mexican desert. They somehow don’t find it odd that they blow all four tires at the same time, so they decide to make a fun family camping trip out of it.
And it is fun… until mutant freaks emerge from the hills and go on a rape-and-murder rampage.
My family does a road trip every year, and we’ve been through the desert southwest several times. Consequently, I’ve been on roads extremely similar to where this film takes place. I’ve met the creepy people at the out-of-the-way gas stations, and I’ve known what it’s like being the only person for miles around. A healthy dose of reality like that can really make the film incredibly scary.
The only saving grace I found watching the movie is that I had no sympathy or respect for the victims. They were full-caliber idiots, even in comparison to basic horror movie fodder. And that works out okay, considering through half of the film, you’re just waiting to see what happens to them when all hell actually does break loose.
This movie is part of a long Hollywood parade of remaking classic horror flicks. This last wave started with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and at least this is a step up from that. Now that Hollywood is mining the grainy splatter cinema from the 1970s, expect a remake of “The Last House on the Left” coming soon as well. There seems to be an appetite for these movies out there.
However, better than the “Texas Chainsaw” remake a couple years back, “The Hills Have Eyes” was directed by “High Tension” auteur Alexandre Aja. The man knows how to direct suspense, and his scenes of action-violence are intensely gripping.
The movie’s a step down from “High Tension,” though because the suspense isn’t as strong as “High Tension,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. The story to “The Hills Have Eyes” is pretty simple, so Aja doesn’t have a whole lot to work with.
So, do I recommend “The Hills Have Eyes”? Yes, but with strict reservations. You’ll only like it if you like these kind of movies.