Hills Have Eyes (2006) – movie review

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Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Aaron Stanford, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie De Ravin
Director: Alexandre Aja

Get your freak on…for a remake…

A family is driving through the desert when their car breaks down. There is nothing around for miles. Well OK, if you must know, there is a horde of genetically mutated cannibals hiding in the hills, yearning to tear the desperate family to pieces.

For psychopaths they are a sophisticated, intelligent bunch. They have names, and they use walkie-talkies with sharp precision. In fact, ignore their weird appearances and unnatural thirst for blood and they could be the folks-next-door you mingle with at barbeques. Of course any meal with this lot is out of the question, because you are the meal.

As in nearly all horrors, this is the ultimate test for the survival of the fittest, the luckiest, and the most likely to wield a weapon. It is interesting that Wes Craven – the undisputed king of the genre and who also co-produces this remake – was inspired by the true tale of the crazed Sawny Beane family in 17th century Scotland when making the original film back in 1977.

This new version has everything you’d expect: dirty, corroding sets; flies; human body parts on hooks drying like beef jerky; blood. Truckloads upon truckloads of blood that spills with each excruciating chase, that explodes with each imminent death. All of which makes it cringe-worthy and painful to watch, scoring it a ten out of ten for an ever-present gore factor.

But as for being scary…apart from the required (and overused) jump-up-in-your-seat moments coupled with frightening twangs of dramatic orchestral music, there is really not much to write home about. Sure, being chased by freaks that would like to eat you for supper is creepy, but let’s face it, it’s not bound to happen to any of us any time soon. Things have improved since the Beanes crunched on human bones as snacks. Perhaps this leads to a question of de-sensitivity and apathy from the modern horror audience? With all the good stories having being told and retold, what does it take to really scare us anymore?

The commendable points lie in the physical quality of this film. Great makeup creates some very realistic effects, and Alexandre Aja’s (HIGH TENSION) choices in artful direction makes for beautiful, engaging shooting. The scenes in themselves are elegantly played out. If a story like this were ever to happen, it would probably look like this (sans about two truckloads of blood).

THE HILLS HAVE EYES is a nightmare coated solely in gross-out horror, leaving no space for any psychological aspects associated with genuine spookiness. It is still a nightmare, though, an ugly, gut-wrenching one at that. In the realm of horror, that is a good thing.

4 out of 6 stars