Hills Have Eyes
Review by Kevin
five years after his highly controversial debut, The
Last House on the Left, shot him to stardom among horror/cult
film fans, Wes Craven went behind the camera again for his second,
and equally taboo, picture, The Hills
Have Eyes. With a greater budget than the previous film,
and some credible actors in the cast, Craven produced what was
to be one of the most grotesque, infamous and stylistic cult
classics of all time.
The film depicts
the Carters, an average all-American family driving through
Nevada on their way to California. They encounter Fred (John
Steadman), a grizzled old attendant, when they stop for gas
off the main highway. Fred warns them of the dangers that lie
ahead in the desert mountain terrain but they decide to proceed
anyway. After driving for many miles on a dirt road they discover
they've wandered inside a huge military training site; a fighter
jet buzzes low overhead and frightens them, causing an accident.
Their camper-towing station wagon has a broken axle and can't
be repaired. Father Bob (Russ Grieve) and his son-in-law, Doug
(Martin Speer), decide to go and find help, with the younger
man heading towards a military installation and the other following
the road back to Fred's gasso. This leaves Bob's wife, Ethel
(Virginia Vincent), son Bobby (Robert Houston), his daughters
Brenda (Susan Lanier) and Lynne (Dee Wallace of The
along with Doug and Lynne's infant child —
stuck in the middle of nowhere.
We then switch
to the point of view of a person, seemingly disturbed, peering
down from the surrounding hills as the family is left unattended.
The stranded travelers are "easy pickins now." Back
at the trailer, one of the family dogs becomes upset, as she
knows someone threatening is watching, and is accidentally released
from the trailer. Beauty, the dog, is then chased after by Bobby
into the foothills. He calls out for her until he hears her
final yelp and then silence. (It's at this point he realizes
that someone else is out there with them.) Bobby stumbles upon
the bloody, gutted carcass of the dog. Following this he hears
a heavy, unsettling breathing sound and runs back toward the
and Lynne are on the two-way radio now, attempting to contact
anyone who can help. They hear nothing but weird, heavy breathing
amid the static. It's through Brenda's stupidity that the second
dog, Beast, escapes into the night. She follows, calling his
name, and eventually encounters a terse Bobby with Beast on
a leash. Brenda notices that there's something wrong with her
brother but doesn't press the matter.
Dad has now
returned to the gas station at which the family first met Fred.
After searching around he comes upon the old man trying to commit
suicide by hanging himself. He helps Fred down, telling him
about the family's predicament. Fred warns that they are all
in great danger. The danger, Fred reveals, comes from his second
born child, a wild, psychotic son. The boy murdered his sister
when he was only 10 years old. In a fit of rage Fred knocked
the "devil kid" unconscious and left him out to the
desert to die. But somehow he survived. And during the ensuing
38 years he's had time to grow into a "devil man"
and raise up his own family as a vicious pack of feral, cannibalistic
predators. It's at
this point that the film really picks up the pace ...
so I'll leave it to you to experience the rest.
Hills Have Eyes is one of the drive-in era's last great
horror flicks, the kind you'd see on a Friday or Saturday night
and leave satisfied. In it Wes Craven revisits one of his favorite
themes, that of civilized man forced to lower himself to barbarism
in order to fight and survive. Some of the set-pieces remain
just as grueling and transgressive today, some three decades
later. It's unfortunate that Craven's subsequent movies haven't
lived up to this standard, because otherwise I'd have more interest
in and respect for the man's work. In conclusion, the film succeeds
for the indie horror fan and as perhaps Craven's best effort.
A horrorphile shouldn't think twice about picking this up. For
under thirty bucks it's well worth every penny.
new Anchor Bay collector's edition is packed with every possible
supplement available for the film. First off, addressing the print,
I'd like to say that it's excellent when taking the age and style
of film into account. Since Hills
was lensed in 16mm and then blown up from theatrical distribution,
there is notable grain throughout. On the positive side, there's
very little print damage. When you think about how it was shot
and taken care of, the print is actually the best you'll ever
see. In the sound department you get Dolby 5.1 Surround EX and
DTS 6.1 soundtracks, which sound positively amazing. We also get
a well-deserved audio commentary by director Wes Craven and producer
Peter Locke. Together they cover a lot of ground concerning the
film's genesis and production.
But that's not all! Now, on to Disc # 2... A new 55-minute
documentary produced by Anchor Bay, Looking Back On The Hills
Have Eyes, features interviews with Craven, producer Locke,
cinematographer Eric Saarinen, and actors Michael Berryman, Janus
Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier, and Dee Wallace-Stone. It's
one of the better documentaries done by Anchor Bay and an interesting
one at that. The Directors: The Films of Wes Craven has
Craven and a number of the leading actors from his various films
discussing him and the impact of his work. A rare and never-before-seen
alternate ending to Hills is surprisingly
featured here and is nothing else than a remixing of some of the
final scenes and the originally styled credits which feature the
actors' faces on a red background with their names appearing below.
Unfortunately, the alternate ending seems to have been taken from
a horrible VHS bootleg sporting pretty bad A/V quality. In the
trailers and TV spots section you get an original American theatrical
trailer along with a German one; it's the same as the U.S. promo,
only in German. There are four TV spots, from Great Britain and
the States. (The British ones are interesting.) Photo galleries
are broken down into sections for behind-the-scenes, posters/memorabilia
and storyboards; a very nice addition.
The disc also features a director's talent bio
which is filled with information about Last
House on the Left and the controversy it generated. Lastly,
DVD-ROM features are offered in the form of the original draft
screenplay for Hills and two screensavers.
This DVD set is fantastic — an extremely great buy. Is there anything
else they could really fit on this? You have, if I'm not mistaken,
every available item here. Well done, Anchor Bay, and it's nice
to see that cheesy DiviMax series logo gone from the box. Let's
just hope it stays that way. 10/05/03