Quantcast THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006) review

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006) (Feb. 06) by Jsyn.


Hey Wes Craven, do you remember those films that you used to make when you had fire in your belly? That passion for making thrilling cinema, before big-budget studio horseshittery dulled your edges and turned you into the moviemaking equivalent of safety scissors? Brother, I have the utmost respect for ya but let's face it...times are changing and this generation needs to find it's own future master of horror. Maybe we can one day forgive CURSED, but we'll see. For now, it's a good thing you handpicked a worthy successor to remake one of your best works.

Let me open by saying I really, really liked this movie. Regardless if you've seen the original or not, this truly stands on it's own legs. Director Alexandre Aja crafted a nasty, dirty, violent, straight-up horror film that I honestly believe is gonna catch all those weekend mallrats off guard. As far as remakes go, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS... it most definitley ain't! Genre fans have been hungry for something satisfying, and while I don't think this film will singlehandedly save horror or anything, it's well worth your ten bucks.

For those who aren't familiar with the original, a family sets out on a cross-country trip to California and breaks down in the middle of the desert. They are immediatley set upon by a pack of cannaibalistic mutants and all kinds of fucked-up shit happens. Yeah, we've seen it before in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and even WRONG TURN, but so what? Mutant cannibals are always fun (and the original HILLS HAVE EYES did it first anyways).

Right away, we're treated to an awesome opening bloodbath that's like a cinematic kick in the nuts. Immediatley, it sets the tone for whats to come. There are some truly great sequences like the attack on the camper that are brutal and unflinching. It's very tightly paced and unnervingly tense. I'd go as far to say it expands and improves upon the original trailer attack. It get's pretty ugly and as much as you don't want them to "go there", they do.

It's not just blood and guts either, we get the chance to care about this family and root for the good guys for a change. Even the family pooch gets a chance to dish out some vengeance, doggy-style. KNB did a fantastic job on the mutants, especially the mess in the wheelchair. Although, the one big bastard did look/act a little like Sloth from THE GOONIES. While the grue was plentiful and visceral, I'm sure we can look forward to a sweet NC-17 version on dvd. The cast was in fine form all around, especially the consistently underused Ted Levine. LOST hottie Emilie DeRavin makes a nice TV-to-film transition. The soundtrack by Tomandandy was very innovative, although some of the IOF crew thought some of the music was almost innappropriate at times. The natural landscapes themselves were imposing and almost otherworldly. The cinematography really captured the feeling of isolation and hopelessness. Overall, the entire film had a dusty, dirty, uncomfortable vibe. They really captured the tone of the original and didn't make any effort to "tidy" anything up.

Now it's not perfect... there are some pacing issues in the last reel, but nothing that terribly distracts from the overall enjoyment. After the trailer attack, we were all wound up ready for some serious mutant cannibal ass-kicking, but it just kinda toned down before the finale. Again, nothing a little nip and tuck in editing can't fix.

There seems to be a theme of comeuppance and revenge in many of the genre films coming out in this, I hate to say it, post-9/11 world. In films like this one and even HOSTEL, as an audience we want to indulge in those revenge fantasies against the Bad Guys. Victims turing the tables on the evil-doers. These are films that will stand out years from now, as a reflection on our times. We're always going to have to suffer through all those PG-13, bloodless clusterfucks because honestly, they continually make money and they aren't made for true genre fans, they're made for teens who can't handle the "adult" stuff. This update of HILLS HAVE EYES is made for us, the horror fans.

Great job all around, and I eagerly anticipate Alexandre Aja's next project because between HIGH TENSION and this one, it really shows that he definitley loves this genre. Go see this one on a weekday afternoon when there are no freakin' kids around to spoil it for ya.

And when will people learn to not take the short-cut?

- Jsyn

*(Special thanks to Michael J. Hein and the NYC Horror Film Festival for the invite to this advance screening!)


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