Director – Alexandre Aja
Cast – Aaron Stanford, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, Dan Byrd, Ted Levine, Tom Bower, Billy Drago, Robert Joy, Derek Mears
Release Year – 2006
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This film is the obvious remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 classic, The Hills Have Eyes. Debuting during the height of modern day horror remakes, I was utterly surprised at how amazingly well done this film as. As I sat in the movie theater I kept thinking to myself “WOW! They really are getting away with a lot for an R-Rated film…” and after viewing the unrated version…I was totally right! Only two minutes of cuts were done to get the film’s R-Rating, giving us most likely the most brutal film in recent time to hit American theaters. Not only that, I honestly feel that this film defies the laws of “remakes” and actually gives us a flick BETTER than the original!
The Hills Have Eyes follows and American family taking a road trip through the deserts of New Mexico en route to San Diego. After stopping for some gas and restroom usage, the family gets a bad tip from the gas attendant and heads down an unknown road where a breed of horribly mutated cannibals reside. The family’s vehicle falls trap to the cannibal’s plan and they are left stranded in the middle of nowhere. Soon enough the cannibals make their move and begin their torment of the family.
As I have mentioned before…these types of films are a dime a dozen. It seems every few years a “new” film comes out with this plot and believe it or not there are a few of them that wind up pretty good(Wrong Turn especially). Alexandre Aja’s excellent direction and great co-screenplay writing make this film an excellent watch and a fun, gory ride. Right off the back we get some sweet carnage involving the cannibals with a bit of history into their origins. Apparently the area used to be a mining town and the residents were forced out of their homes so that the Army/government could conduct nuclear tests in the desert. Some of the town’s residents had nowhere to go so they moved to the mines and did what they could to live through the tests. They made it out alive alright…but with some very disfiguring consequences. I personally like these type of stories given that we do know that nuclear tests have been conducted in deserts, the so idea (in theory) is somewhat realistic.
I really enjoyed the characters in this film and the actors portraying them did well, with solid performances. The use of Ted Levine(the lead detective on the show “Monk” as “Big Bob”(the dad) contrasted greatly with the use of Aaron Stanford(“Pyro” from X2 and X Men: The Last Stand) as his “sissy” liberal son in-law “Doug“. Both actors nailed their roles and I enjoyed how the character “Doug” was used in the film and LOVED his character development. If you’ve seen this film then you know exactly what I am referring to. Hehe. The “mutants” in this film were really awesome and superbly acted as well. Derek Mears made his career with this film as the “big” mutant, and is most recently appeared as “Jason Vorhees” in the Friday the 13th reboot.. I really liked how Director Alexandre Aja threw in some creative creatures as well towards the end of the film. We get some mutant children as well as a sickly looking on in a wheel chair that is sure to creep the hell out of you. Lastly, this may not be a “character critique” necessarily but I really loved the use of the dogs in this film and found that to really separate this flick from the countless others with virtually the same plot. Bravo to this film’s writing staff.
So how is the gore in this film? Its pretty well done and definitely makes this film a shocking watch. If you know of director Alexandre Aja then you know he is a fan of gore and this film’s brutality should come as no surprise. Mr. Aja broke into the horror scene with High Tension</em>, then gave us this film, and most recently gave us Mirrors(which I have a review for), which is the least gory of his films but still give us some shocking scenes. As you may have guessed, all of the gore scenes have to do with the mutants, which means we get some good action as well as awesome deaths on their part as well.
Overall, this is a great film that is sure to please all horror fans and for once gives us a remake that is better than the original.
– I ranked this film #21 in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(21-30) post.