Retro Review: The Hills Have Eyes

Of all the recent horror remakes, “The Hills Have Eyes” is the first of the bunch where I hadn’t seen the original film.

The original 1977 film was one of the earlier Wes Craven films and followed the cult-classic 1972 horror film “The Last House on the Left” which launched the legendary career of Wes Craven. “Hills” came between “Last House” and 1982’s “Swamp Thing” and predated 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. The film also spawned an inferior sequel in 1985, just a year after “Elm Street” exploded.

Why go back to the one of the original films that launched a legend? Why not? They just seem to be remaking every horror film under the sun these days.

Conceived and re-envisioned by Alexandre Aja, the disturbed mind behind the 2003’s surprise hit “High Tension”, the new version of “Hills” is masterfully shot and the cinematography is quite gripping for a film of this size.

The flaw here is the story and how these disturbed individuals ended up in the desert in the first place. The origins are all based entirely in the fear of the time, a nuclear explosion. “The Red Scare”, “nuclear experiments” and “radiation” were all the backbone of popular culture during the Cold War. “Hills” was a perfect example of that surge in the culture of the time. Today, it just doesn’t really register as much.

One thing I really liked about this film was that it lets the film’s central hero be a hero. In so many of recent horror films like “Saw” and “Hostel” there is such a focus on grueling gore and a praising of the film’s nihilistic killer. I like the fact we have someone to cheer for and finally all the people in the film aren’t just body-parts waiting to be dismembered.

The hero in “Hills” is played by Aaron Stanford, who is probably best known for playing Pyro in “X2: X-Men United”. Stanford is not your typical hero and I could see some of me in him. I liked cheering for a hero I could relate to.

I felt that Kathleen Quinlan and Ted Levine were wasted in this film and used more as shock value. It’s a shame but that’s kind of what this film is.

The more horror films we get recently the more graphic and disturbing is the gore. “Hills” continues this new tradition but unlike some of the more recent films it does it for shock and it works.

I have read that there were some scenes omitted from the cut of the film I experienced. One of those extended scenes involved a rape and as the film stands now I am not sure including that scene would have helped traumatize the character any more or aided the plot. So it probably wasn’t necessary just overkill. Pardon the pun.

There were some scenes and textures I felt went too far but as a whole I felt that “The Hills Have Eyes” is one of the better horror films to come out this year, thus far.

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

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