|THE HILLS HAVE EYES
(2006) (Feb. 06) by Jsyn.
THE EYES HAVE IT!
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).
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.
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?
*(Special thanks to Michael J. Hein and the NYC Horror Film Festival for the invite to this advance screening!)