Emilie De Ravin
A remake of a 1970s horror movie is quite simply the last thing we needright now and there little about a retread of The Hills Have Eyes causes anythingbut a groan.
But the original film did manage to be coolly subversive andits original director Wes Craven is producing this time. It’s also directedby talented French helmer Alexandre Aja who made an impressive debut withSwitchblade Romance. Must keep an open mind, must keep an openmind.
The Carter family, along with their daughter’s husband, are travelingacross country and making a slight detour to see the great AmericanSouthwest. But after an ill-advised shortcut they find themselves in troubleas a carefully plotted trap results in a crash. Alone in the middle ofnowhere, their car troubles are the least of their problems. There’ssomething in the hills.
This something as we are told by a gruesome yet ineffective prologue arepeople genetically ruined by nuclear testing. So cue the make-up artisthaving a field day, creating randomly repulsive people all with variousphysical abnormalities. The film is surprisingly slow with its build-up,usually a plus point in a horror film, but the clichd familydynamics and minimal tension make it a hard slog.
The attacks start with a hugely effective sequence.The creatures inflict a torturous death on one of the members in front ofthe family as a distraction for another attack on the youngest daughter. There’s atruly uncomfortable and shocking gang rape scene which ends in bloodshed,that results in two more members brutally murdered. After this scene though the filmfinds it hard to know what to do. One of its strangest ideas is to have thefamily dog become a character in itself, helping to bring down thevillains.
But the creatures themselves arenever scary. Grunting and stumbling around, they resemble villains in apoorly budgeted kids movie. As the film shifts into a conventional searchand rescue melodrama there is no amount of blood and guts that can hide thesinking feeling that we know exactly what territory we are in and the chanceof any surprises is slim to say the least.
The cast are uniformly average. All are vaguely recognisable actors, yetafter the film has wrapped you’ll struggle to remember any of their names.Aja is a confident director and keeps the action coming thick and fast, buthe shows little of the promise that made his debut so thrilling. It seems to be anothercase of a European director being transported to Hollywood but leaving theirtalent at home. The Hills Have Eyes is not the worst of therecent influx of horror movies, but it does little to make it stand out. Alast minute twist also suggests a sequel is on the way. Somebody stopthem.