Face-Off: Wrong Turn vs. The Hills Have Eyes remake

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Drawing inspiration from the upcoming release of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS and the four heroic brothers referenced in that title, our theme this week is mutant families. The families who will be facing off got their mutations in different ways, but those mutations have helped push them toward the activities they’ve dedicated their lives to: instead of heroism, these folks are all about killing unlucky travelers. Stepping into the Face-Off arena we have Rob Schmidt’s 2003 film WRONG TURN and Alexandre Aja’s 2006 remake of a 1977 Wes Craven classic, THE HILLS HAVE EYES.
The mutant brothers in WRONG TURN do their living and killing deep in an expansive forest in Greenbrier Backcountry, West Virginia. With cliffs, waterfalls, and thick vegetation, the place could almost be considered pretty and peaceful if there weren’t cannibalistic murderers stalking among the trees. There are times when the killers may be the only people around for miles, but you might luck out and cross paths with a park ranger.
Even a novice might find a way to survive off the land for a while in Greenbrier Backcountry. If you got stuck in the wide open New Mexico desert where this film’s mutant clan dwells, you’d probably be screwed pretty quickly. There’s no one around, and as far as the eye can see there’s nothing but desert and hills. The days are scorching, the nights are freezing. Between the two areas, I would be more afraid to be stuck in this one.
Although part 2 would unnecessarily add toxic waste into the mix, the mutants in this film are the way they are as the result of multiple generations of inbreeding. They are terribly deformed by birth defects and completely out of their minds. Saw-Tooth and One-Eye are extremely tall and burly, while their brother Three Finger is smaller and quicker, and possibly the most insane of the bunch. They aren’t talkers, but Three Finger sure does a lot of laughing. This trio is very much a throwback to the backwoods slashers of the ’80s, and it was awesome to see killers like this on the big screen twenty years after the slasher boom.
Craven’s killers had some birth defects and developmental issues, but they weren’t really mutants. Aja not only increased their numbers, but also added in the back story of them being the victims of radioactive fallout from atomic bomb tests. Some of their deformities are very extreme, there’s one character who can’t even lift his head because it’s so over-sized. And then there’s one called Jupiter who just has long hair and a beard. There are so many that some aren’t even fleshed out as characters, but the standouts are the hulking Pluto, the sympathetic Ruby, and the evil scumbag rapist who’s called Lizard because of his scaly skin.
Saw-Tooth, One-Eye, and Three Finger are very skilled hunters and trappers. They take down human prey like they’re just another animal in the forest, putting people and vehicles alike out of commission with barbed wire traps. Their mutations have also imbued them with incredible strength and resiliency – these guys are very tough to kill, taking damage and shrugging it off like true slasher pros. Stab them, axe them, or knock them off trees, they’ll just keep on coming after you.
These killers have similar hunting tactics, but the mutations they suffer from aren’t really a benefit to them. They’re either debilitating – like it is for the aforementioned big-headed “Big Brain” – or just something that has made them quite unpleasant to look at. The exception may be Pluto, who is a large brute much like the WRONG TURN guys, and he can also take a lot of bodily damage and keep on coming after you. A brutal altercation with Pluto is the highlight of the movie, the main thing I would recommend seeing it for.
After she’s dumped by her boyfriend, Jessie’s friends – stoner couple Evan and Francine, engaged couple Scott and Carly – attempt to cheer her up by taking her on a road trip. That road trip comes to an end when they hit a line of barbed wire that has been stretched across the road… and then distracted med student Chris crashes into the back of their disabled vehicle. Jessie is a decent heroine, Chris is kind of a bland hero, Evan and Francine are typical slasher fodder, but there are some very cute interactions between Scott and Carly. Rambling and awkward, Scott’s not around for very long, but he is by far my favorite character.
Retired detective Big Bob Carter and his wife Ethel are on a road trip from Cleveland, Ohio to San Diego, California to celebrate their anniversary, and accompanying them are their kids Bobby, Brenda, and Lynn, as well as Lynn’s husband Doug and infant daughter. Some of these characters are a pain, some are a bit dim, but their interactions seem natural and real for the most part. The least likeable is Doug, who starts off as a jerk but eventually becomes the action hero of the bunch. I prefer these characters the way they were in the original (Doug especially), but they make for a fine group of victims.
The backwoods brothers pull off some classic slasher kills while whittling down the number of characters in this film. They pump arrows into backs and through heads, wrap barbed wire around someone’s mouth, and in one unforgettable moment a victim is decapitated with an axe while on a tree limb above the ground. The way it’s presented makes it one for the slasher kill hall of fame.
This is a brutal film, and not just with the kills. There’s a shotgun suicide, rape, cannibalism, and extended fight sequences – the best is the Pluto fight, but Lizard can beat the hell out of a person, too. The kills aren’t too shabby. Some characters get shot, some get slasher-style pick axe murders, one gets taken out in an explosion, and a less lucky one is burnt alive.
This was a close one. Although I like the brothers of WRONG TURN and enjoy the film’s fun, old school slasher style, THE HILLS HAVE EYES ’06 squeaks out a victory when the mutant murderer melee comes to an end, earning the win with a more desolate location, slightly better travelers, and a higher level of violence. I nearly gave the Violence category to WRONG TURN, which would have made that film the winner, because none of the kills in THE HILLS HAVE EYES are as great as that one axing. HILLS has the brutal edge, though, as Aja really put his characters through the ringer.

Do you think the right mutant family won, or did the West Virginia trio deserve the victory? Should WRONG TURN have won in the Violence category? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Is there a Face-Off pairing you’re dying to see? I’m always glad to hear suggestions, and you can get them to me by sending an email to [email protected].

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.