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Review: Hills Have Eyes, The (1977)

Reviewer: Christopher Youngblood


In 1977 Wes Craven brought us the seminal horror classic that pushed the boundaries of horror movies. Coming off of his highly controversial first picture "Last House On The Left" Craven brought us his next project "The Hills Have Eyes" The story is about the Carter family who are on vacation and decide to get off of the main highway and take the scenic route. After stopping for gas at an old run down filling station the family meet a strange old man who offers them free advice while servicing their vehicle. He warns the family to stay on the main road and not to get off of it for any reason. After leaving the filling station the family does exactly what the man warned them not to do and get's off the main road. After driving for several miles the family get in a wreck after swerving to avoid hitting a bunny rabbit. The family quickly realizes that their automobile has suffered a broken axle and is no longer operable. Stranded in the middle of the dessert Mr. Carter (Russ Grieve) goes for help while the rest of the family tries to pass the time. It's not long before the family realizes that their beautiful and pristine surroundings have become a living nightmare as they discover that 'The Hills Have Eyes'.

Shot entirely in California Wes Craven's sophomore effort was an obvious evolution from his first picture. The story was based on the true story of the Beane family from the 1400's. They were a feral clan who inhabited and roamed the highlands of Scotland's East Lothian County, near Edinburgh, in the early 1400s. They captured, tormented and ate several transients. After reading about this family Craven had the idea for his next picture. Armed with a budget of about $300,000.00 (Quite an increase from his first film of $90,000.00) he set out to make his mutant family attacks picture perfect American family film. Craven was smart in picking his location for the shoot as he knew that the scenery would be the real star of his film.

Craven doesn't hold back in this picture as he lets the gore and terror fly. The film boasts a sadistic rape scene, violent shootings, stabbings, and a gruesome burning. Just what you would expect from a Wes Craven film in the 70's. The picture flows well and keeps a good pace. As intended the scenery becomes the real star of the film as we watch the hapless Carter Family get stalked and slaughtered by a mutant mountain family.

The film provides some good scares but the film is more gruesome than anything else. At some points in the film you find yourself rooting for the Mutant's and the picture almost becomes a bit of fun and a guilty pleasure at the same time. Aimed towards "Drive-In" audiences the film still manages stand on it's own and has become a bit of a cult classic.

In 2006 Alexandre Aja co-wrote and directed a remake of Cravens original shocker and managed to do something really rare when remaking movies, he actually improved upon the original film. While still respecting Craven's original story line he managed to add some more plot points which explained who and why the mutants were living in the mountains to begin with. After casting some very attractive people to play the Carter family (Vanessa Shaw and Emile De Raven) and throw in some CGI effects to make the mutants more scary you got your self a stellar remake of a horror cult classic.



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