Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Hills Have Eyes (2006) Film Review
Purists can whine and xenophobes can yelp, but French director Alexandre Aja's audacious remake of the Wes Craven classic, The Hills Have Eyes, blows the 1977 original right out of the desert. With Craven's full approval, too: he offered his own screenplay and was on hand to produce. He must have liked Aja's Haute Tension (Switchblade Romance) an awful lot.
Adding much better actors and his own sick instincts to Craven's bare-bones story, Aja drop-kicks us into the New Mexico desert with a shocking, pre-credits slaughter that's mercifully brief. He then unleashes a furious montage of deformed infants and blooming mushroom clouds before introducing the Carter family, Gulfstreaming toward San Diego in blissful ignorance of the cannibalistic mutants lurking in the dunes. While tensions mount in the trailer - primarily between Republican patriarch Bob (Ted Levine) and his freethinking son-in-law, Doug (Aaron Stanford) - mom Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan) referees the bickering of daughter Brenda (Emilie de Ravin) and teenage son Bobby (an excellent Dan Byrd). The vehicle crashes, the older men go for help, and darkness - and the mutants - descend. The fun has begun.
Where Haute Tension was slick and cold and manipulative, The Hills Have Eyes is crazily hot-blooded and pumped with adrenaline. The second hour is so relentless there's no place to breathe; doors swing open on megalocephalic monsters and the desert is strewn with ghoulish shadows and misshapen semi-humans. A baby is kidnapped, a dog eviscerated and a dead bird squeezed and slurped like a can of Coke. Aja and his cinematographer, Maxime Alexandre, create ingeniously dread-filled, silent tableaux: a creeping wide shot of a sand basin filled with abandoned cars; a government test village designed for atomic experiments, filled with Fifties furniture and nuclear-family mannequins.
Threaded with humour and a Morricone-esque score, The Hills Have Eyes is brutal and witty, terrifying and devilishly clever.Reviewed on: 10 Jul 2006