The Hills Have Eyes

UK release date: 10 March 2006

cast list
Aaron Stanford
Emilie De Ravin
Kathleen Quinlan
Ted Levine
Vinessa Shaw

directed by
Alexandre Aja

A remake of a 1970s horror movie is quite simply the last thing we need right now and there little about a retread of The Hills Have Eyes causes anything but a groan. But the original film did manage to be coolly subversive and its original director Wes Craven is producing this time. It’s also directed by talented French helmer Alexandre Aja who made an impressive debut with Switchblade Romance. Must keep an open mind, must keep an open mind.

The Carter family, along with their daughter’s husband, are travelling across country and making a slight detour to see the great American Southwest. But after an ill-advised shortcut they find themselves in trouble as a carefully plotted trap results in a crash. Alone in the middle of nowhere, their car troubles are the least of their problems. There’s something in the hills.

This something as we are told by a gruesome yet ineffective prologue are people genetically ruined by nuclear testing. So cue the make-up artist having a field day, creating randomly repulsive people all with various physical abnormalities. The film is surprisingly slow with its build-up, usually a plus point in a horror film, but the clichéd family dynamics 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 of the family as a distraction for another attack on the youngest daughter. There’s a truly uncomfortable and shocking gang rape scene which ends in bloodshed, that results in two more members brutally murdered. After this scene though the film finds it hard to know what to do. One of its strangest ideas is to have the family dog become a character in itself, helping to bring down the villains.

But the creatures themselves are never scary. Grunting and stumbling around, they resemble villains in a poorly budgeted kids movie. As the film shifts into a conventional search and rescue melodrama there is no amount of blood and guts that can hide the sinking feeling that we know exactly what territory we are in and the chance of any surprises is slim to say the least.

The cast are uniformly average. All are vaguely recognisable actors, yet after 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, but he shows little of the promise that made his debut so thrilling. It seems to be another case of a European director being transported to Hollywood but leaving their talent at home. The Hills Have Eyes is not the worst of the recent influx of horror movies, but it does little to make it stand out. A last minute twist also suggests a sequel is on the way. Somebody stop them.

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