THE HILLS HAVE EYES (BLU-RAY)
Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
What's it about
Big Bob rustles up his family for a trip to California to commemorate his 50th wedding anniversary. They've got their teenage kids, their married daughter and husband and their dogs. After ignoring requests to take the main road, Big Bob and his family end up stranded in a desert full of radioactive mutants known as The Pack.
Is it good movie?
Wes Craven can be really hit and miss, and I don't think many would disagree. For as many of his flicks as I love, I have a counterpart that I loathe. I don't hate Last House on the Left, and I loved the remake of Hills Have Eyes. Now, I have fond feelings for the regional as well.
Much like the remake, this movie is brutal and unrelenting. What took my breath away here is the fact that nobody is safe- this is a mean movie and you'll see children and women eating it in nasty ways at the hands of the cannibals. Sure, the movie isn't as brutal as the remake tends to be, but this is some pretty nasty stuff to take in. Yes, there's a rape scene, and it isn't pretty.
This is still a creepy and effective movie. The cannibals are on the hunt, and played by Lance Gordon and Micheal Berryman, in a role he's still famous for. They're very effective and dangerous under orders from Papa Jupiter, played by Jim Whitworth. Of course, it all builds to a real head. You watch these maniacs rending the family limb from limb and you're dying to see the family retaliate.
It is hard not to cheer for our family in peril as the film goes on and when they begin to fight back, you really root for them. I didn't find myself laughing and enjoying myself when they bit it, but rather got the sinking feeling that things weren't going to turn out well.
On the negative side of things, this isn't a perfect beast. The guerrilla style of filmmaking works for the movie, but by the same token the whole production feels raw. The effects aren't very good and when it gets dark things get muddy and hard to see. Also, one could argue that The Pack is a little too silly to possibly be taken seriously, but that's a real point of debate.
This is a classic horror flick that pioneered many others after it. As I said before, I love the remake and you can't have one without the other. It is certainly worth watching and I'm glad I saw it, but I can't honestly say I'd rather see this over the slick re-imagining.
Video / Audio
Video isn't impressive at all. The transfer comes to us in 1.85:1 1080p widescreen, but this really looks like a crappy DVD. It's grainy, blotchy, muddy and ugly. Nothing worth mentioning here.
Audio sounds great and comes in 6.1 DTS-HD audio. It tends to be a bit front-heavy, but I wasn't complaining for the most part- it sounded great.
First up is a commentary with Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke. I have a hard time listening to Wes because I find his voice somewhat monotone but he's got a ton to say on this track and really recounts some great info.
Next is a great hour long documentary called Looking Back at The Hills Have Eyes, which is exactly as it sounds, a full retrospective detailing the cast, crew and creation of the film.
There's also The Directors: The Films of Wes Craven, it runs about an hour too and really piles on the praise for Wes. Nevertheless, a great and meaty addition to the disc.
If you want to see how they cleaned up the negatives, you can watch a 4 minute Restoration demo. Blu-Ray is still ugly though.
Rounding out the disc are a lame alternate ending, trailers and TV spots, still galleries and a little biography of Craven via text (weird, eh).
As I said before, this one's a cult classic and is certainly among Craven's better works. The Blu-ray looks like crap, but the extras are certainly solid. I recommend it if you don't already own it.