Silver Screams: The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Silver Screams continues with Leon Nicholson taking a look at The Hills Have Eyes remake starring Emile de Ravin and Kathleen Quinlan.

Following in the now age old tradition of 70’s horror remakes such as Dawn of the Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror (to name a few), it was inevitable that The Hills Have Eyes would receive the updated treatment. This was the platform for Alexandre Aja, who came to prominence with the blood-splatteringly brilliant Switchblade Romance to demonstrate his undoubted talent on the world stage. Would Aja’s effort derived from Wes Craven’s original live up to expectation?

Countless nuclear experiments conducted by the US government in the New Mexico desert, emitting high levels of radiation mutated the DNA of the families nearby causing them to bear offspring severely affected by these tests. This however was not the only side-effect. It somehow turned these people into homicidal, psychotic killers feeding on every ounce of human flesh they can get their hands on! Great set up for a horror film!!!!!
So cue the Carters, who after stopping off at a gas station stupidly take a short cut on a non-existent road-track only to suffer a puncture. In the middle of nowhere, hot, lost and very stuck, it is apparent to them that they may not be alone. How right they are because from out of the rocks and hills, they are ambushed by a group of mutants, inflicting their own brand of justice on innocent families to get back at the government who caused them to look the way they do. From here, it becomes a war; a battle to survive. Who will win; the humans or the mutants?

The Hills Have Eyes best performance comes from Emile de Ravin (Brenda) as the token “blonde beauty” that seems to feature in this genre of movie pretty often. In a good cast that litters the movie with some average acting, de Ravin is actually a breath of fresh air. A very close second is Tom Bower as the weird Gas station attendant, who keeps the viewers on their toes wandering what part he has to play in the story. As the senior actors, Kathleen Quinlan (Ethel) and Ted Levine (Big Bob) try their best they can and as for the rest of the cast, it’s just a mish-mash to fill in the gaps between the periods of violence, which rears its ugly head during the second half of the movie.

Essentially, Alexandre Aja’s remake is a film of two halves; the first of which attempts to build up the tension, set the scene and introduce us to the characters, which is well directed. The second half is a complete gore fest that would excite a haemophiliac vampire which in turn may leave some people feeling a bit short changed.
There is no doubt that Aja loves and knows the horror genre like the back of his own hand – especially 70’s horror (if in doubt watch Switchblade Romance). The feel, the loneliness and the build up of tension featured in 1970’s horror is captured wonderfully in the opening 40-45mins. However, the second-half transports us to the porn gore/torture porn sub genre, with the catharsis demonstrated through gratuitous, gruesome and extreme violence.  This is unfortunately a superficial and easy way to attempt to ‘entertain’ the viewers. Alexandre Aja would have got away with this if it was an original idea (again, see Switchblade Romance) but unfortunately it feels like the extremities this movie goes to is solely to outdo the original.

Really though, what did we expect? In reality the story is weak; the performances are inconsistent with patches of dodgy US soap style acting  followed by odd  flashes of brilliance. Thankfully, it’s not all bad though because there are moments where the tension builds up to almost extreme terror… if one puts themselves in the characters shoes… this, unfortunately does not happen very often. It’s just a shame that the positive aspects of The Hills Have Eyes including its good soundtrack, and Maxime Alexandre’s excellent cinematography is overshadowed by the disturbing and graphic nature of the film.

This deems The Hills Have Eyes average at best; certainly nothing more, but luckily nothing less. If, however, one was to compare this to his previous directorial effort then we would have certainly hoped for more.
If bloody, gory, violent, brutal, sadistic violence is your bag of haggis then you’ll love this, otherwise stay away because this will make for extremely difficult viewing.

FMV Rating **½

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