THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Directed by Wes Craven
“”Hills Have Eyes has plenty of fans out there I'm sure, but I don't see it. Never have."
Now I always thought that a guy like Sam Raimi showed flash and style no matter what project he tackled. He displayed an unique eye, and it was always a consistent eye. Wes Craven, on the other hand, showed...something. He’s always good about putting a cast through one nasty terror campaign after other, but I’ve never seen a definable style. I don’t think I’ve watched a Craven movie and thought, “Damn this reeks of Craven.” Nope, maybe he needs Smell-O-Vision? With that said, it's not that Craven hasn't tried because he’s always maintained a bloodthirsty fan base.
Likewise, the Hills Have Eyes has plenty of fans out there I'm sure, but I don't see it. Never have. The pacing is horrendous, the acting a worse adjective than that. The story should be a terrifying one, but it always plays generic and cheap. Even worse, none of these ailments end up in the “entertaining bad” category.It's left alone in the bad category.In takes flick a full 30 minutes to give any real horror. Everything else: filler. I won't even call it character development because no one ever gets that kinda love. Everyone is a bore, well except the father who is given the back story of a bad ticker, but it’s that thin.
I know the fun of Hills is enjoyment of murder (fictional of course) and psychological chaos caused by some back-desert types (sand trash or trailer dust? I don't know what they're called in the Southwest part of the States). But this isn't a fun movie. The villains, led by bald icon Michael Berryman, try their best to leave their mark. They bring the charisma that Craven villains often have but they play it too silly and stupid to take them seriously, f*cking up the tone that Craven never really established. I think the remake tone corrected as it played tense and powerful. The original never made it there.
I think what bothers me looking back is that Craven forgot to spend any time on the characters. I rooted for them to all end up dead, which is a problem. It removes that necessary tension horror needs.The father was the only dude I found interesting, but he didn't survive too long out in the middle of nowhere (damn bum ticker).
So in the end I wonder if the Hills Have Eyes is famous because legions of fans still adore the thing or if its the directed-by-Craven factor. I have to assume Craven factor because beyond that there's not much of interest here. It's slow, dull and mostly unimaginative. At its worst it plays like a cheap drive-in flick (not the good kind). At its best...it shows the potential of a young director. It's a movie that attempts a lot of good things, but it just didn't get there.