The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
(18) Running time: 107 mins
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writers: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
Starring: Ted Levine, Kathleen Quinlan, Dan Byrd
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
The original Hills Have Eyes, directed by a young Wes Craven, was a sick a brutal experience and ended up on the video Nasties List. People were shocked and outraged by its brutal attack on an everyday suburban family taking a short cut through the desert mountains. Cannibals lead by Jupiter did horrific things, the young girl was raped, and the Dad set on fire, a dog killed and a baby stolen for lunch. To say this film upset people is a silly thing to say, people were horrified and it was a well known shocker, and still has a cult following thanks, in no small part, to the wonderful Michael Berryman playing Pluto: the bald eyes staring brute on the original cover. Back in the 70’s, the stir this film caused was pretty damn loud, everyone knew about it, but you had to be of a strong stomach to watch it.
Imagine what all those people would say about Alexandre Aja’s “re-imagining”. They would probably have heart attacks and die As the horror market becomes more and more brutal, and less and less director’s play it safe, it’s refreshing to see so many films pass the BBFC with minor cuts, let alone actually being released at all. Before this film was released, there was talk of Aja’s scene for scene remake of the first attack on the family, and how the BBFC and film critics had to sit through 15 minutes of such gut wrenching violence, most felt physically sick. There were rumours that this film would NEVER see the light of day. Aja had gone “too far”! It did get released, and as far as i know, it’s hardly cut. To see the scene just goes to prove just how relaxed the BBFC have become and it’s great.
When I first saw this, I was amazed by the opening credits; I literally shook with joy in the cinema. I know what Aja was capable of, and first impressions were very positive. I was hoping to see something new. However, for nearly 90 minutes, it became a scene for scene remake. But, boy did he do well. This film is nastier, more brutal, more shocking, more effective and just downright scarier than the original. As with Rob Zombie’s films, the violence is savage and brutal but, unlike Zombie, in no way glorified. Its main aim is to shock, and it damn well does! We don’t have any bald Berryman running around these hills, which i thought was a genius move for Aja. You could never replace that character, so why try. Instead, we have new mutants, and they are much much worse than those from the 70’s. After a tense build up, the first attack finally comes. To say i was excited may seem a bit sick, but I was very interested in seeing how it was handled. Fuck me, 15 minutes of pure evil, it was a savage attack, extreme doesn’t come into it. This was violent, and how it got past the censors is anybody’s guess. My wife started crying the rape was much more effective, and very hard to watch. It felt more real, she was more desperate, and the guy, twice her size and dribbling over her, was far more disgusting. The Dad being set on fire was exactly the same as the original, but somehow more savage. It was horrific!
We then get into the stalker and prey territory as the family try to hold off the advances of the cannibals. One guy decides enough is enough and goes off to get his baby back. So far, so remake. Then, Aja added one more trick, one more touch of magic that put this remake up there with the best horror remakes of all time. I remember looking at my watch and thinking, there’s still half hour to go, how the hell is he gonna drag this out?? Well, that whole new ending was just classic. Our four eyed, bit wimpish Dad goes in search of his son, with his trusted dog, as in the original, but, here, he goes through a tunnel (that wasn’t in the original, I thought) and on the other side finds the “village” of these mutated cannibals. It’s a brilliant site, and really drives home the point that the nuclear testing has made these people into monsters. Derelict, run down, and full of the after effects of the tests, this looks like Hell in the desert. Our Dad goes from quiet, wimpish type, to full on Arnie as he hunts for his child. Both him, and his dog go on a savage hunt. As he battles each mutant, one scene bloodier than the last, we are given a new ending to really cherish, to really sit back and say, “Aja, nice one mate, what a way to end it”. It’s brutal, harrowing, and at times you really really feel for this poor guy as he goes from one sticky situation to the next. Aja, you were doing so well at this point, an awesome piece of work and easily deserves its place here. Just please, please don’t make anymore crap like Mirrors!
[pt-filmtitle]The Hills Have Eyes (2005)[/pt-filmtitle]