THE HILLS HAVE EYES (UNRATED)
Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
An all American family ends up on a nightmarish cross-country trip. When they take a short cut, they find themselves terrorized by some f*cked up and pissed off people living on a nuclear test site.
Is it good movie?
With the current remake trend that has been going on for the past few years in Hollywood, I have mixed feelings. Yes… most come across as empty shells of what was a great film. All the artistry and care that went into the original is now purely a way to make a buck. But at the same time, they have created an interest in some genre classics which may not have happened without the "re-imagining". But once in a great while, there is a diamond in the rough. A brutal, deadly diamond that cuts deeper than the original idea. Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes IS that diamond. Aja took everything that made the original a horror classic, yet polished it to make it shine on its own.
This story of a family who takes a wrong turn and find themselves in a fight for survival has been done to death. But this time around the stakes are much higher. Aja is a pro when creating “real” horror by letting us get involved with the family. We get to know these people and actually care about their outcome. And one of the most important factors that make this hill alive is the cast; especially notable is the son-in-law Doug, played by Aaron Stanford (yes, Pyro from the X-Men franchise). His liberal character who would never touch a gun transforms with his anger and his fight to save his family from harm. I bought the guy and found myself cheering every step of the way. Great job. The rest of the performances were top-notch also, including genre alum, Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs) and Kathleen Quinlan (Event Horizon).
This has much to do with Wes Craven’s (who produced this version) original except it has been tweaked. The story remains the same but this film emphasizes the fact that these people living in the hills had been destroyed by our own government who turned their homes into a nuclear test site. And also gone is the unintentional (and sometimes intentional) humor. There were few "jokes" here. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the original but they were able to update it and frankly make it better. It all looked good, from the superior set design, the atmospheric visuals and some fantastic performances; this is one vacation I want to take.
Video / Audio
Video: A very nice Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer.
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Surround kept the sound of blood rushing and weapons swinging pretty freakin’ sweet.
The terrific extras start off with Audio Commentary from director/co-screenwriter Alexandre Aja, art director/co-screenwriter Gregory Levasseur and producer Marianne Maddalena who give us a pretty informative look behind the scenes. The talk about how the extreme weather conditions kind of helped the actors be in the right frame of mind for the kind of movie they were shooting. Good stuff.
We get one more commentary from producers Wes Craven and Peter Locke who are also fairly informative but they seem to lose their spark every so often with a few “silent” moments. I did appreciate when they would talk about the differences between the remake and the original. Not as interesting as the filmmakers commentary but both are worth a listen.
Next we get Surviving the Hills: Making of the Hills Have Eyes (50:21) which is an interesting behind the scenes. It was a nice documentary that was better than your average “behind the scenes” that teaches you nothing. I was most impressed with the CG portion and the realization of how much of the film was digital effects. I didn’t even notice it the first time.
Then we have a series of short Production Diaries (11:07) including Welcome to Morocco, Danilo: The Blood Bomb Builder, Missing Fingers, The Scorpion Whisperer, Stunt Double, Happy Family and Bad Weather. You can watch these one at a time or push the “Play All” button if you are feeling really adventurous. Not a bad feature and “The Scorpion Whisperer” was just plain creepy (you'll see what I mean).
And finally, we get a music video for Leave the Broken Hearts (3:35) by screamo alt band The Finalists. Not great but I dug the song. The video is one of those, band standing in front of images from the movie. If you like this kind of music, then check it out.
Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes is one of the very few remakes that works better than the original. The performances; especially the very believable and kick ass Aaron Stanford kept me involved and rooting for the family. This is a brutal assault on the basis of “violence begets violence” and it works as a horror movie and as a subtle statement of what we have become as a society. The hills are watching and so will you.