With the successful remakes of The Amityville Horror and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, horror master Wes Craven saw an opportunity to re-introduce his classic to a contemporary audience. Wowed by 27 year-old Alexandre Aja's 2005 film, High Tension, Craven settled upon him to bring a fresh, innovative style and visual verve to his project. Cravens' instincts were right. Aja directs like a veteran, creating a tension-filled atmosphere that grabs viewers from the opening scene and never lets go. He even manages to squeeze a few last drops of creepiness out of our latent fears of the effects of nuclear radiation.
The story begins with the Walton-esque Carter family traveling through the New Mexico desert to San Diego in Big Bob's (Ted Levine) loaded down Suburban pulling his recently refurbished '88 Airstream travel trailer. Things begin to go horribly awry however when Bob follows the advice of a toothless, bearded local gas station owner and takes a shortcut off the main road in hopes of shaving a couple hours off their trip. Shouldn't people know by now that there's no such thing as a shortcut? Anyway, the family soon finds itself in a broken down Suburban miles away from anything resembling civilization.
If the family's first mistake was taking the shortcut, their second comes when Bob and spineless son-in-law Doug (Aaron Stanford) head out into the desert on foot in search of a telephone. A now separated family makes easy pickings for the once thriving miners who refused to abandon their land during the atomic testing of the mid-twentieth century. After years of exposure to nuclear fallout, the former miners are now grotesquely malformed mutants with a ravenous hunger for human flesh. But, of course, like in any good horror movie, the victims refuse to go down without a struggle. The remaining Carters have a few clever tricks up their sleeves and fight back with a vengeance. Smartly, Aja and screenwriter Gregory Lavasseur (High Tension) keep viewers a bit unnerved by foiling the horror conventions of which characters are supposed to die first.
There's no real message in The Hills Have Eyes but sometimes that's just not necessary. Even though the film briefly steps into the arena of social commentary when one genetic mutant, credited as "Big Brain", pleads his case of how they were all just innocent miners until the government moved in with its atomic testing, the message never comes across as heavy handed nor is it ever shoved down our throats disguised as a second layer of artistic vision. The filmmakers quickly get back to the order of the day allowing the audience to stew in the broth of cannibalism, gunplay, sexuality, killing, and dismemberment.
The Hills Have Eyes is a ghoulishly entertaining little survival story that looks at the freakish side of human nature under the most extreme pressure. Speaking of freaks, the circus sideshow of genetic mutants is one of the most entertaining aspects of the story. So bothersome in fact, I can't help but be slightly disturbed that there were people behind the scenes who actually thought of these bizarre characters.
Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1
Subtitles: English, Spanish; French; Closed Captioned
Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; making-of featurette; trailer.
* Audio Commentary
o With director/co-screenwriter Alexandre Aja, art director/co-screenwriter Gregory Levasseur and producer Marianne Maddalena
o With producers Wes Craven and Peter Locke
o Documentary - 50:00 - Surviving the Hills: Making of the Hills Have Eyes.
o Production Diaries - Meet the crew; special effects and stunts; bad weather during filming; meet the scorpion wrangler;
* Music Video - Leave the Broken Hearts by the Finalist.
Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging
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