"Do you always try to stop trespassers by hanging yourself ?",
This review is from: The Hills Have Eyes (2 Disc Special Edition)  [DVD] (DVD)
The Carter family are traveling on vacation when they stop off at a gas station, the owner seems nice enough and tries to warn the family from straying from the main road. Bob goes off road anyway and he crashes the car, he decides to walk back to the gas station for help while his son in law, Doug, walks in the opposite direction. When Bob arrives at the station, he finds the owner trying to hang himself. Bob stops him from killing himself, then the owner tells Bob about his disfigured son Jupiter who lives in the hills with his deformed cannibalistic family. Jupiter then kills his father and knocks Bob unconscious, a little while later the rest of the family are horrified when they hear Bob screaming in agony, the cannibals are hungry and the Carter's have become their latest prey.
All of the actors perform their roles well, Dee Wallace and Michael Berryman will be the two most recognisable actors in the film as both went on to have successful careers in the horror genre. It adds to the film that Berryman who plays the deformed Pluto actually has hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, a rare genetic condition which prevents him from developing hair, sweat glands or fingernails.
This was Wes Craven's second film after the brutal Last House On The Left, and he directs this in a similar way. He managed to put together a good cast on a budget of just $230,000, and the raw performances they give really make us feel for the characters, especially in the scene where the cannibals get into the trailer. What Craven did with the Hills Have Eyes is to have innocent people attacked by violent maniacs, and then have the potential victims fight back and almost become as animalistic as the killers themselves. I always find it fascinating watching peaceful people being forced into "survivor mode" and fighting back.
Despite the fact the film is set in a desert wilderness, there's still a claustrophobic feel to it, as the family have no way of escape. A lot of the film is also shot in the day time, credit always needs to go to the cast and crew when they manage to put you on edge in bright sunlight. Too many films rely on darkness and jump scares these days instead of building character development and atmosphere. Many of the props in the film were props from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Craven has stated that this film is an homage to it. There's no nudity and very little in the way of blood and gore, but the little we get is done well. The Hills Have Eyes will hit you emotionally instead of making your stomach turn with gratuitous gore.
The 2 disc special edition has decent picture quality, it's quite grainy and has the odd line or speckle appear here and there, but it suits the film nicely and the film wouldn't have the same impact if it looked too clean. The first disc has a commentary by Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke, it's very interesting listening to the two reminisce about the problems they had with the heat and stories about the cast. Disc two has a documentary featuring Wes Craven, Peter Locke, Janus Blythe, Susan Lanier, Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman and cinematographer Eric Saarinen. The brilliant documentary The American Nightmare, which is a 73 minute examination into the nature of 1960s-'70s horror films, the involved artists, and how they reflected contemporary society. George A. Romero, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper and John Landis are just a few of the directors who were interviewed for it. Stills gallery, tv spots and trailers. The DVD also has no subtitles.
The Hills Have Eyes seems to have almost been forgotten, but I feel it was just as important a horror film as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist and Halloween. Although it seems slow and tame compared to horror films these days including the very good 2006 remake, it holds up surprisingly well and remains one of my favourites in the genre. A movie every horror fan should have in their collection.