A great movie to check out this week: The Hills Have Eyes (THHE). Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) directed the original version, which was extremely freaky and scary in its own right. The 1970s version seems outdated now, especially with the effects. However, the new version takes the scary parts from the 70s version, amplifies it, notches up the fear factor, and brings it to the year 2006!
The premise of THHE has been copied and re-copied by countless horror movies, and THHE is the benchmark for the classic case of “people stranded in the middle of nowhere being preyed upon by evil forces” (see Deliverance, Wrong Turn, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wolf Creek, The Blair Witch Project). However, what makes THHE ultra-creepy is the blurring of fact and fiction.
The credits in the beginning inform us about the countless nuclear explosions that the United States government conducted in the barren New Mexico desert. The inhabitants of the small mining town refused to leave their town thereby exposing themselves to nuclear radiation. Because of this, their children were born deformed (and deformed they were complete with missing fingers, enlarged skulls, webbed feet!) Black and white photographs and newspaper clippings all bear witness to the events that occurred in the 70s. Think about Chernobyl and you get the idea.
Enter the Carter family: dad, mom, son, daughters, son in law and the baby. On a routine stop at a lonesome gas pump, they encounter a typical gas attendant, complete with rotten teeth and cigar smoking. He informs the family of a short cut through the desert to California. Of course, we all know the family will take the short cut. However, a trap punctures their car and trailer and they are left stranded. One of them sees a light flashing across the hill. The sons sees one of his dogs ripped apart. They know someone is out there; the hills have eyes- they are not alone!
Tensions flares between the family members. Brother and sister are fighting. Dad and son in law don’t get along. The other daughter is stuck between her family and her husband. The wife is disapproving of her husband. However, all it takes for them to set aside their differences are a bunch of deformed human beings who terrorize the helpless family.
Out in the middle of nowhere, where no scream can be heard, the family is terrorized. One is crucified and burnt, another is shot in the head, a third is shot in the stomach, and the baby is…well, I won’t spoil the surprise.
THHE is a solid horror movie, very realistically made, and very believable, so much so, you want to know if the government did indeed mess up the inhabitants of this small mining town rendering them deformed. Once the terrifying attack takes place on the family we know there is no turning back, and are immediately pulled into this world of terror, fear, shock and ultimate gore. We also instantly realize that in the hands of these attackers, it is better to die instantly than to endure prolonged suffering and torture.
Once again, I saw the late show, where I was one of the few in the massive theatre, and walking back home alone at midnight was no fun. Once again, I could get to sleep, thinking about whether it is better to die quickly and get over it with your life or to fight back for your life enduring pain and torture.