Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman & Robert Houston
Synopsis: The lucky ones died first.
Rating: 18 Duration: 89 minutes Release date: 3 October (UK)
Horror films, more so than any other type of film, can be very much inclusive of their time. Their impact can be lost and modern remakes are favoured over their predecessors because peoples views and levels of tolerance have changed. Wes Craven’s 1977 The Hills Have Eyes has fixed itself as an essential time piece, playing on people’s fears of the unknown and commenting on various social and political scenarios. It’s also a bloody good horror film and, though it may lack the gore of its 2006 remake, it stands up as another notable work in Wes Craven’s career and as a film that punctuated the fears of the time.
While taking a break across America from Ohio to Los Angeles, The Carter family stop off at a run down gas station for fuel, here the owner warns them of something hiding in the hills and they should keep to the main road in order to stay safe. Of course, this being a horror film, the Carter’s soon find themselves on the receiving end of some truly horrific punishment at the hands of a local family of cannibals and murderers.
The Hills Have Eyes is, perhaps, one of Wes Craven’s lesser appreciated works. His legacy seems more defined by the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream which both worked in differing ways to change the horror landscape. Their remarkable villains and the directors choice to create two very self-aware films ensured that both are icons of the genre. However, it would be grossly unfair to dismiss The Hill Have Eyes especially because it still works on so many levels.
There are several scenes that still impact on the audience in wholly unsettling ways; the burning of the Carter family’s father for example or the trailer raid which sits as a truly gut-wrenching scene. Those scenes aside, the thing that really strikes about The Hills Have Eyes is the way it plays into your mind and becomes a thoroughly discomforting horror. Much like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was released three years earlier in 1974, it truly scares by gradually crushing the Carter family’s and the audiences spirit. The gradual build towards the films finale begs two questions; how far will a family go to survive and who are the real monsters by the time the films final credits roll.
In many ways, The Hills Have Eyes is a far smarter film than it may be given credit for. There are deeper levels here than the blood-fest that was the 2006 remake and it leaves all the analogies about the politics and social structure of the time there for anyone who wants to find them. Yet it also features the usual pitfalls of many horror films. Characters make stupid decisions, some of the acting, especially early on, can be a little ropey and for a film that is 39 years old it can all seem a bit outdated and hokey. The latter though may be more of a problem for modern audiences not used to the raw appeal of horror films from so long ago.
Despite its detriments, there is no doubting the quality of The Hills Have Eyes. It still has the appeal it did in 1977 even it has lost degree of its impact. Have no doubt though, this is still a film that works incredibly well and has all the ingredients of a classic genre film and still has plenty that will evoke a reaction from audiences old and new.
As with any Arrow release, The Hills Have Eyes Blu-ray is a marvel for fans wanting more than a trailer and deleted scenes on their special features. As well as restoring the audio and visual quality of the film, Arrow have also stacked the new release with a bounty of extras. Alongside an audio commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke is “Looking Back on The Hill Have Eyes” which features interviews with Craven, Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace and director of photography Eric Saarinen.
Also included is an interview with composer Don Peake and an alternate ending. Fans of bells and whistles who fork out on the Blu-ray will also get a reversible sleeve with original and new artwork commissioned by Paul Shipper, six art cards and a new booklet which features writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and Ewan Cant.