Susan Lanier as Brenda Carter
Robert Houston as Bobby Carter
Martin Speer as Doug Wood
Dee Wallace-Stone as Lynne Wood
Russ Grieve as Big Bob Carter
When I was a child my parents had a Winnebago motor home. The Winnebago “Indian” in fact, and we would take this mini-house on wheels to visit Grandma Maxine and Grandpa Jack in Arizona several times a year. Sometimes we would drive straight through from Southern California and others we would stop along the way to “camp”. Why am I telling you all this? Well, The Hills Have Eyes plays on some of the same fears that crossed my young mind back in those days.
The story is about a family that decides to celebrate Mom and Dad’s Silver Anniversary by driving cross country and camping in a trailer along the way. Well, actually it’s Dad that decides that this a good idea and everyone else must go along with it.
As they trek along a “shortcut” through New Mexico they have serious car trouble, and are stranded in the middle of nowhere. This situation is made much worse by the fact that there are people living in the isolated desert hills…bad people. The family, now, must try to survive in their tiny little dot of civilization stuck right in the middle of an unforgiving, big, bad primitive world.
The themes in The Hills Have Eyes can be interpreted as very deep, or merely as a scenario that leaves a family vulnerable to attack and terror. I have watched the film both ways, as good gritty nail-biting horror and as cutting commentary on the false worlds that society has created to give the comfortable illusion of being civilized. I guess I prefer the first approach…because the last thing I want to do during a horror movie is think too much.
Still, the treatment of how a small patch of civilization is just a dot in this large, dangerous wild world is a good one in The Hills Have Eyes, and is one of the reasons why this movie is so scary.
Everyone has their concept of a safe place – usually their home. We try not to go to the dangerous neighborhoods or be caught unprepared for threatening circumstances. But what if the precautions fail you?
What if you suddenly find yourself smack dab in the middle of a VERY scary place with evil creatures after you…and there is nowhere to hide…no one to help you. That’s helplessness…and that’s horror.
Aside from the overall element of isolation with no means of assistance, what strikes me is the simple fact that while inside that trailer there is just a thin wall between you and whatever is lurking outside. I remember as a child hearing noises outside and wondering if it was a bear…or a mountain hillbilly playing dueling banjos. Usually, of course, the sound was nothing but a pinecone falling or something like that…but The Hills Have Eyes shows us what that noise could be if it is actually not a pinecone, but instead a horror worse than your most frightening imagining.
Think about that the next time you set up the ole’ pup-tent.