My History With the Film:
I’ll never forget the first time I watched the original The Hills Have Eyes sometime around the year 2000 on IFC. It blew me away. It was so vicious and terrifying and I loved it. When a re-make was announced a few years later, I wasn’t all that excited. I just didn’t think another director (outside of Wes Craven) could tell that story so effectively. I was wrong.
I bought The Hills Have Eyes on DVD as soon as it was released and I absolutely loved it. It retained the same intensity of the original film and smoothed out of the rough edges. Since that initial viewing, I’ve seen the film two or three times more, and recently viewed it again so that I could do a review for the blog.
What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A family decides to take a short cut through the desert and find themselves being stalked and attacked by mutants.
What I Liked About It:
-The Hills Have Eyes feels hot, dirty, sticky, and uncomfortable. From start to finish there is never a moment where you see any of the characters comfortable. They aren’t enjoying the air conditioning or just kicking back in a comfy chair and for the entire runtime of the film you feel uncomfortable too. You just never get a moment to relax and feel like everything is right in the world.
-The casting is great with none of the characters being all that likeable. They feel like a real family of flawed people who end up in a fucked up situation and are forced to adapt, grow, or die.
-Maybe it’s getting older, or maybe I was just more observant this time around, but Doug’s development from a guy who was scared to hold a gun to having to revert to primal instincts was more impactful then I remember.
-The mutant designs are fantastic. They are terrifying and they feel quite authentic.
-The Hills Have Eyes can be uncomfortable to watch at times, especially the assault on the trailer.
-The cinematography is great and they make great use out of the surrounding desert.
-Arguably my favorite part of the film takes place at the abandoned atomic town. The use of mannequins, art deco designs, and abandoned furniture makes for a great backdrop.
What I Didn’t Like About It:
-There is a scene involving CGI fire and I remember thinking it didn’t work great back in 2006 and it definitely does not work all that well now. It was a little ambitious to try and use CGI in that scene and well, it sticks out a bit.
-I feel like Ruby was wasted. The character is always lurking in the shadows, but ends up just a mysterious as the rest of the group.
-Almost all of Ted Levine’s (Bob) lines were improvised.
-The movie was filmed in Morocco and the gas station was built on location. It was so realistic that people actually stopped and tried to buy gas.
-The mutants were created using CGI, physical effects, and sometimes both.
-The photos of the mutations in the opening credits were of Agent Orange birth defects, not atomic mutation.
-Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke wanted to shoot the film in the same desert they shot the original 1977 film, but when they went to scout the locations they found a series of condominiums had been built on the land.
-Make up effect master Greg Nictotero portrayed Cyst, the mutant with the halo head gear.
-To ease the difficulty of shooting inside a tiny trailer, the producer designer built a set of the inside of the trailer that is 30% bigger than an actual trailer.
The Hills Have Eyes is a damn solid film and one of the better remakes. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with the story, but I feel like the little touches that it does change up on enhance the film so much so that it exceeds the original. I really enjoyed the set, the makeup effects, and the gore. It’s a fun, intense movie and well worth your time.
I rate The Hills Have Eyes as a four out of five and say it’s a high priority rental.