The Hills Have Eyes review by The Grim Ringler

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Uh-oh, we could have a problem here kids. By the time everyone reads this review people are going to start saying I am light on the re-makes. That maybe I like them a wee too much. Well, so be it, ‘cause to be honest, the big three – Dawn of the Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Hills – have all been pretty damned good. All were well made. All took the story and added elements to them. And I enjoyed all three films. Are they better than their originals? Not at all…save for this one. I don’t dislike the original Hills at all, it’s a nasty little movie with a lot of subtext. The hell of it is that the story is better than the movie. And a lot of that comes down to the hill folk themselves, who look a wee too much like cave-people and not people effected by radiation. I like the movie, but it didn’t quite capture the feel it was after. This remake does that perfectly, and then some.

Being that this is a remake, I can be a bit sparse on the plot. A family is driving across the desert wastes of New Mexico on their way to San Diego. It’s the last trip for the whole family as one daughter has married and has a child, and the other two kids are reaching an age where family trips aren’t quite as fun anymore. But dad has just retired from the police force and it he and his wife’s wedding anniversary so it’s a special occasion. None of the kids wanted to take the cross-country trip in the Suburban with an old Airstream trailer in tow but it was for the parents so you suck it up and do it. On their way through the desert an old man who owns a fill-up station tells them of a short cut that will save them a couple of hours drive time. Wonderful. When they take this shortcut though the family quickly finds out that it’s no short cut at all, but a trap set by a family living in the hills that cover this desert. A family with a taste for human flesh. And now this suburban family will have to fight for their lives against another family that is barely human, a family that has made its livelihoods on preying on travelers coming through their hills, and a family with some monstrous secrets that won’t be secret much longer.

So if the movie is damned close to the original in its story – identical in fact save for some important fleshing out – why the hell do I like it more than the original? The aforementioned fleshing out is why. In this version the hill family, and there are a lot more of them this time around, come straight out of a nightmare. Deformed and deranged, this family doesn’t just seem like hill people who have lived out in the wilds too long but like true mutants that are no longer human at all. These are truly monsters, and they act monstrously. And director Aja allows the family to act their fury and their horror out instead of giving them dialogue. These are monsters and monsters rarely need to say a damned thing to be monstrous. I also love that the story of where these people come from and what made them is expanded. Sure, we hear about the fact that nuclear testing made this freakish family but it’s far more powerful when we see it and see where they live. And I liked that the husband to the family’s daughter is such a weasel because it makes his story arc so much more interesting when you see it come to fruition.

All is not perfect however. There are some very odd musical cues here that all but work to take the air out of scenes. I can’t really remember us finding out solidly that the gas station owner is the father, to a degree, of this family of mutants. Unless they decided to change that fact altogether, they make it pretty vague. A strength in the original was the back-story on Papa Jupiter and poor old Jupe is kinda relegated to a bit part in the film, which is a shame. There is also one edit that drove me nuts, where the camera pushes in on something but there are jump cuts added in as well. Ack! So there are some bumps on this road but not so many that it derails a pretty good movie.

And a pretty nasty movie. I know there were a lot of young people in our showing and at least two young women walked out. Why? ‘Cause this isn’t a fun horror film, something we have gotten a lot of in the past few years. There are no real laughs, there are no ghost kids, and this is not PG-13. This is a hard ‘R’ rated horror film that will upset a lot of people. As well it should. It wasn’t made to give a few light scares but to freak you the hell out. Whether it goes too far is up to each individual to decide but for me, it nailed the feel it should have. This is an unsettling story and feels that way.

I like the original Hills but I really like this remake. The direction is great, the camera-work is superb, the scares are solid, and the makeup fx is amazing. Myself, I give this more of a 7.5 than an 8 but it could go either way for me. I have problems with a few things in it but it wasn’t enough to ruin the movie for me and it was actually better than I expected it to be, and that’s always nice to find. I recommend this for horror fans looking for another hardcore movie to remind them why they love the genre but casual fans might sit this one out.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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