Wes Craven returns to the 101 Horror Movies list with his 1977 classic, The Hills Have Eyes. The film originally received an X-rating, but Craven made a couple of additional cuts to make it a hard R.
There was a remake not so long ago, and for the most part, I remember it being fairly decent, but Craven is a master and we’re on his turf in this film. Much like the poor family who wanders into the hands of the terrifying people who are hunting him, we are at his mercy in this film.
A couple of faces were familiar, Michael Berryman (featured front and center on the poster), who played Pluto – all of the family were named after planets, and Dee Wallace, who was Elliot’s mom in E.T.
The Carter family are on their way across America to sunny California, but are taking a side trip to visit a silver mine the Mr. & Mrs. received as a silver anniversary present. Warned off by an elderly gas attendant (promptly ignored of course as you do in these movies) the family station wagon and trailer are soon run off the road, and marooned.
But they aren’t alone.
They are stalked by a group of inbred, cannibalistic hill people who have designs and plans for the family.
But they aren’t all going down without a fight.
Craven’s characters are pushed to their limits in this film as they struggle to survive, fighting for their lives.
It doesn’t take the Carters long to descend to the Family’s level of violence just to stay alive, brutally striking back at their attackers.
The film itself looks like it’s right out of the 70s (which of course it is) and can allow most modern viewers to distance themselves from it that way, although by today’s standards most of the imagery is very tame.
The concept however is still frightening, which is of course, why we had the remakes with an increased gore factor.
Some of the scares are telegraphed, but a lot of it just builds on the creep factor before BOOM! The Family is on you!
You see the family get whittled down, leaving fewer and fewer of them behind, and when the Family steals their baby, with the intention of devouring it, they go all out to reclaim the lost child, the family dog, appropriately named Beast, even gets into it, taking down two members of the family himself.
It’s a gut-wrenching ride, as these people, who didn’t do anything wrong (except perhaps trespass unknowingly onto the Family’s hunting ground), have their lives ruined, and in some cases completely snuffed out.
The film is brutal, intense, and Wes Craven shows us that he is the Horror Meister.
There is a grittiness to it, that is lacking in the color-corrected, slick remake, yes it’s not as visual in it’s gore, but it’s a visceral experience, if you are one of those folk who can just let yourself slip into the world of a movie.
If you are, and you’re looking for something to set you on edge…
This should do it.
What do you think – remake or original?