THE HILLS HAVE EYES- THE REMAKE. 2006. DIRECTED BY ALEXANDRE AJA. PRODUCED BY WES CRAVEN, MARIANNE MADDALENA AND PETER LOCKE. BASED ON WES CRAVEN’S ‘THE HILLS HAVE EYES.’ (1977) STARRING AARON STANFORD, KATHLEEN QUINLAN, VINESSA SHAW, EMILIE DE RAVIN, DAN BYRD, ROBERT JOY AND TED LEVINE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Holy smoke, Batman! I thought I was such a big brave girl, watching the original version of THE HILLS HAVE EYES from 1977 and being relatively able to handle the violence and gore levels contained therein. As brilliant as the original film undoubtedly is, and a terrific example of iconic ‘Seventies horror to boot, the remake is so unbelievably violent that it actually makes the older movie look like an extended episode of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. Curious…? Read on if you dare…
This time around, they’ve stuck pretty faithfully to the plot of the first film. The Carter family are still rolling across the Nevada Desert with their trailer fixed to the back of their car, making for sunny California. They never get there, of course, at least not that we know of.
They’re deliberately mis-directed by a crazy old coot who has his own reasons for not wanting them to reach their destination. That being the case, they end up stranded on a deserted stretch of desert where only people who are lost like themselves ever go. They are attacked by a sickeningly violent and terrifying-looking band of mutants for whom this hidden part of the desert is home.
The remake takes the original plot a step- or several steps- further by showing us exactly how these freaks ended up so disfigured and deformed. After World War Two, the American government/army conducted a load of nuclear tests in that part of the desert. The horrific effects of their testing can be clearly seen on the faces of the cannibalistic mutants. As loathsome as they are, they surely didn’t ask to be born that way.
They live off the grid, as it were, in one of the army’s deserted ‘test’ villages. You know the ones with the mannequins and the exact replicas of the ‘Fifties houses with the ‘Fifties TV sets and suites of ‘Fifties furniture and everything? I don’t know about you, but those villages chill me to the bone. I don’t know what I’d do if I ever found myself alone in one. Not likely to happen but hey, you never know.
To my mind, this explanation for the mutants, alluded to only slightly in the first film, is the best thing the film-makers could have done. It’s a top-notch explanation, but not only that. It’s terrifically exciting as well. I was holding my breath at each new discovery and development, each more disgusting and stomach-turning than the last, as Doug Bukowski, Big Bob Carter’s son-in-law, makes his way around the test village searching for his baby daughter Katie. Baby Katie’s been kidnapped by the mutants so that they can eat her. They haven’t any food, you see, so they eat any travellers unfortunate enough to fall into their mis-shapen hands. Well, what else are they gonna do…?
Another new element added by the remake is the terribly eerie ‘graveyard’ for the cars and other vehicles that once belonged to the ‘lost folk,’ the unlucky travellers of whom we’ve just been speaking. Doug discovers this ‘graveyard’ lurking at the bottom of a huge crater left by the army’s bomb tests but he doesn’t have a clue what it is at first. The cars are just sitting there with all this stuff in them that once belonged to the dead people. Doug even takes a teddy bear out of one of the cars to bring back to Baby Katie…
Speaking of Doug, at the start of the film he’s a bit of an a**hole, rude to his father-in-law and disrespecting his wife. He’s a far cry from the nice cuddly Ringo Starr-lookalike Doug from the first film. When the chips are down, however, he becomes something of a hero as he battles Pluto, the worst and most fearsome of all the mutants, for the life of his little girl. Bobby and Brenda, too, initially seem to be inferior to the Bobby and Brenda in the first film but, when what happens happens, they win our respect by stepping smartly up to the plate and fighting for their lives with the best of them.
The special effects in this film are amazing. The mutants are so fearsome that some of them could pass for Orcs. Props to the make-up department for sure. Watch out for what has to be an homage to ‘Seventies horror film DON’T LOOK NOW in the form of Ruby darting about amongst the rocks in her bright red hoody.
Full marks as well to the test village, the vehicle ‘graveyard’ and also the mines, a little something that was added in the remake. This film is outstanding. Horror maestro Wes Craven, who sadly died this week of brain cancer, simply has to have been proud of it and happy with it.
Sometimes you really have to wonder why remakes are necessary at all, when the original films were perfect to begin with. THE WICKER MAN (1973) and Stephen King’s original CARRIE are possible cases in point. Most people would probably consider that these classic films didn’t need remaking.
In other cases, however, developments in technology and the relaxation of certain censorship laws could make a strong case for a remake actually improving on the original film. THE HILLS HAVE EYES is a perfect example. The original movie is an unforgettable classic. The remake is a bloody horror masterpiece. It’s as simple as that.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
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