Do you know what really happens when a bomb explodes? You turn into a
horribly disfigured cannibal that preys on unsuspecting families in a
remote New Mexico desert. Based on the Wes Craven 1977 flick, “The
Hills Have Eyes” is a mediocre remake of what was originally a mediocre
horror film that rides the tidal wave of recent remakes like “House of
Wax” and “The Amityville Horror.”
Bob Carter (Ted Levine, “Memoirs of a Geisha”), a gun-toting
red-blooded American, takes his family on a road trip to California.
They are a picture-perfect example of suburban pleasantry, with two
comely daughters, Lynn (Vinessa Shaw) and Brenda (Emilie de Ravin
“Lost”) and a teenage son (Dan Byrd). Despite protests from his “pussy
Democrat” son-in-law Doug (Aaron Stanford, “X-Men 2”), Bob pledges to
drive the “scenic” desert route.
After stopping for gas at a shoddy station, the Carter family
receives directions from a shady attendant about a “shortcut” through
the desolate and abandoned hills of New Mexico. Somehow, the Carters
don’t seem to notice the somewhat obvious dark figures that dart around
their RV as they drive.
When roadside spikes appear (gee, how did those get there?)
on the highway, the RV breaks down. The disfigured mutants are not
content to remain in the shadows, and when they emerge, the
Various members of the family are flayed, chopped, and even
eaten by our hideous villains, who have names like “Goggle” and
“Lizard.” You see, because the government decided to test nuclear
weapons in the Mexico desert, their home, they have a vendetta against
all of humanity, which they act out in the form of torture and
As the movie centers on Doug and Brenda’s survival, it turns
gratuitously violent—and absolutely ridiculous. Buckets of blood are
used and poor Ravin’s vocal chords must have suffered greatly from her
constant on-screen screaming. Honestly, she shrieks louder than Neve
Campbell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and all other horror heroines
The music doesn’t help matters. At climactic scenes the score
is woundingly jarring and Aleve-inducing: Rachmaninoff meets a
bulldozer. You always know when the nuclearized freaks are close
because of your impending headache.
For fans of documentary-style filmmaking, “The Hills Have
Eyes” is a prime example of this form applied to the horror genre. With
archived footage spliced throughout and a grainy lens, this flick
utilizes the old-school horror techniques patented by the auteur
himself: Craven (who serves as a producer of this remake).
The conclusion is a disappointment, since the beginning of
“The Hills Have Eyes” is legitimately scary and even promising. As was
the case with M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs,” the movie is only spooky
when the villians are obscured, indefinite, and inexplicable. Once the
monsters are revealed, there’s nothing left to your over-active
imagination—and in Craven’s flick, there’s no Joaquin Phoenix eye-candy
to make up for this lack of suspense.
By the end of the film, when it reaches its zenith of gore
and guts, you can’t help but succumb to laughter at the ridiculousness
of it all.
But, this is a fair warning about the disturbing amount of
violence throughout the movie. I advise against eating anything
substantial prior to watching this gore-fest, but if you do, sneak some
Pepto-Bismol into the theater.
Bottom Line: The official tagline for this movie is “the
lucky ones die first.” In actuality the lucky ones died before this
horrific film was made.
—Staff writer Jessica C. Coggins can be reached at email@example.com.