Wes Craven (1977 screenplay), Alexandre Aja (screenplay)
Aaron Stanford as Doug
Kathleen Quinlan as Ethel Carter
Vinessa Shaw as Lynn
Dan Byrd as Bobby Carter
Tom Bower as Gas Station Attendant
Whenever I hear about Hollywood remaking movies, especially classic horror films, I get nervous – and rightfully so. So many remakes are nothing more than a rehash of old themes that were popular once with hopeful filmmakers banking on the fact that they will be popular again. Imagine my skepticism, then, when I first sat down to watch the updated version of Wes Craven’s fantastic The Hill Have Eyes (1977).The Hills Have Eyes remake is an intense take on the “stranded group being hunted” motif that is a fixture in the world of horror.
Typically when I think of people being stranded and hunted by monsters/humans/mutants (all three of those descriptions sum up the villains in The Hills Have Eyes remake) I personally imagine a forest setting, or an isolated house that enables the game of cat and mouse to translate easily to film. The interesting thing about The Hills Have Eyesremake is that the scenery of the film become a villain by showing looming images of the surrounding hills that feel like they are watching every move.
The Hills Have Eyes remake has a simple story on the surface. A family on their way to California on vacation becomes stranded in an area that is very isolated and far from any kind of civilization. As darkness falls a group of mutants stalk the family. These mutants have a back-story as they are decedents of a mining community that refused to leave the area in the 50s and 60s when nuclear testing was scheduled in their back yards. These decedents are twisted and mangled by radiation poisoning and have a sadistic hatred toward “normal people”.
The acting in The Hills Have Eyes remake isn’t half bad. Particularly cool is the transformation of Doug (Aaron Stanford) from a nerdy, wishy-washy, and simply boring character to a man hell bent on revenge and saving those around him after discovering his wife has been murdered and his infant daughter missing.
The Hills Have Eyes remake has a decent amount of gore and scenes designed to stun and shock. I do not become squeamish easily, but there is one scene where the mutants sneak into the Winnebago and assault the teenage daughter that is absolutely burned into my memory as disturbing and potentially unnecessarily violent and sick. Contrary to popular beliefs, I do have some standards. The only reason I can see why a writer would include such a graphic scene instead of implying the assault would be to make the audience:
• Despise the group of monsters
• Care about the family the monsters are preying upon,
• Destroy any sympathy we might have developed for the crazy mutants due to their terrible circumstances.
The Hills Have Eyes remake has more than an undertone of a social message. The original had villains that were the descendents of one evil guy but the remake is a clear commentary on the unforeseen consequences of nuclear weapons and power. Many horror movie moral themes warn not to be a bully or else those you tease may come back onto a train during your graduation party and kill you, or to stay away from pre-marital sex, drinking and being obnoxious or you might get zipped up in a sleeping bag and beat against a tree – but the remake of The Hills Have Eyesremake has a larger moral and social purpose in notifying us all that the victims of our excess will come back to terrorize us when we are most vulnerable.
The Hills Have Eyes remake will make you appreciate Wes Craven’s creative use of setting and theme for a second time – and respect how well his story develops with the benefit of Aja’s pumped-up gore and modern horror-movie film techniques. Tasteless rape scene aside, The Hills Have Eyes remake is a good addition to the horror genre and I highly recommend it. Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to dispose of all of those New Mexico quarters in my change cup. You can never be too careful.