U.S. Theatrical Release Date: March 10, 2006
U.S. DVD Release Date: June 10, 2006
Tagline: "The Lucky Ones Die First"
The generic template for the way this sort of story in this genre of film unfolds goes as follows. (You know the drill) Everyone recite in unison...
(1) A family (extended or not) takes a cross-country road trip together.
(2) The group becomes agitated with one another due to traveling together in close quarters and long hours on the road in each others' company.
(3) Wanting to reach their destination more rapidly they accept some bad advice and decide to take a 'shortcut'.
(4) Their method of transportation breaks down and leaves them stranded with no help for miles around.
(5) The unit is besieged brutally and repeatedly by a local threat.
(6) The surviving family member(s) retaliate against the threat in an effort of self-preservation and to maintain their freedom.
Director Alexandre Aja's (High Tension
) remake of Wes Craven's 1977 'Drive-In' classic zealously follows this formula, but with some curious twists and, I would say, some improvements.
The film introduces us to the Carter family, consisting of Dad, who calls himself 'Big Bob' (Ted Levine ~ 'TV's Monk', 'The Silence of the Lambs'
) and his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan ~ 'Event Horizon'
), their newlywed daughter Lynn (Vinessa Shaw ~ 'Eyes Wide Shut'
), her husband Doug (Aaron Stanford ~ 'X2
) and the young couples' infant daughter.
Also along for the trip are the Carters' two teenage siblings Brenda and Bobby (Emilie de Raven ~ 'TV's Lost'
and Dan Byrd ~ 'Mortuary'
, respectively), plus two German shepherd dogs named Beauty and Beast.
Big Bob hitches up the family 'Airstream' trailer and they all head off cross country towards San Diego, California in a celebration of Bob's retirement from his career as a law enforcement officer.
After stopping at one of those 'last chance' gas stations (you know the kind I'm referring to. Where half of the lights don't work, the rest room key is tied to a cinder block (as if you would use the 'facilities' anyway), and you couldn't buy a good 'Blue Collar Comedy Tour' CD (they never heard of CD's in these places) to save your soul.), Bob elects to heed the advice of the grizzled, oily station attendant and the family proceeds to take the fateful 'shortcut' that does not even appear on the map, and they venture into the desert, far off the well traveled highway.
It is shortly hereafter that the family's vehicle is assaulted and disabled by a group of cannibalistic mutants, the descendants of generations of miners who refused to abandon their land even with the advent of the United States government performing nuclear tests in the area deep in the New Mexico desert, sometime after World War II.
The immoderate horror and gore literally floods the screen from this point on with innumerable digits being lopped off, violent penetrating assaults, pick-axes thrust with alacrity into writhing torsos and the first on-screen demonstration of the stopping power of the 'Smith & Wesson' .500 Magnum revolver handgun. (Dirty Harry would have loved this bad boy. Very powerful. Very messy.).
As both camps fight for survival, each lose numbers of their own in turn. But not in the time or order that a viewer might expect. Screen time and marquee billing are irrelevant in relation to a characters chances of making it to the final reel.
There is something oddly different about this film that kept (and still does more than a week after viewing it) gnawing at the back of my skull (for lack of a better term). I'm finding a few of the underlying themes interesting
The DVD is presented in Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1 ratio. Sound is English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or Spanish 2.1 Dolby Digital Surround(?). Also provided are English, Spanish and French subtitles.
Special Features include:
- 'Commentary by Director/Co-Screenwriter Alexandre Aja, Art Director/Co-Screenwriter Gregory Levasseur and Producer Marianne Maddalena'
- 'Commentary by Producers Wes Craven and Peter Locke'
- "Surviving the Hills: 'Making of The Hills Have Eyes'" Documentary'
- 'Production Diaries'
The cinematography is splendid(especially a scene when we see where the 'mutants' reside including a giant bomb crater, filled with the cars, trucks and SUV's of their countless victims), vividly portraying the desert's unyielding daytime heat and it's bitter cold when the sun goes down. A 'jump-out-of your-seat'. soundtrack also perfectly accentuates the gruesome state-of -the art makeup effects.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
I had the opportunity to view this with a colleague and upon discussing it afterwords, I was surprised to find that we had come to some of the same impressions relating to some of the subtexts in this movie.
(1) The Carter family appears to be a representation of America as a whole. Dysfunctional to say the least, as every member has different beliefs, varying shapes and sizes, abilities, ages capabilities and aspirations. Here, the demographic lines are set.
(2) The Cannibals reflect an entirely different culture, and when the Carters' become lost in the desert it could be interpreted as an invasion of the mutants' homeland. Here, the political lines are drawn.
(3) 'America' created (however inadvertently) the 'Evil' when the government tried to force the once 'normal' miners from their homes and their land. Along with the implied government 'cover-up' of these actions, it adds more weight to the mutants' motivation.
(4) The 'Evil' strikes out at America in the form of the initial assault on the Carters'. As Big Bob takes up his firearms, yet Doug refuses to carry one, they head off in separate directions to find help. This reflects the division between two political parties.
(5) What could be conceived as 'anti-American sentiment' is displayed when Big Bob is burned at the stake by the mutants, with an American flag sticking out of his chest.
(6) When Doug reclaims the flag and plants it in the throat of 'Big Mama Mutant', it is perceived as a reclaiming of power and strength.
I know all these ideas don't exactly work together. But, are these the veiled political views of America as perceived by French director Aja? Or am I analyzing this way too much? Regardless, the film provides something that this genre does not leave a viewer with very often. Concepts. Something one can actually think about and discuss after the movie is over.
A 'horror movie' with a message? Hmmmm. I wonder...
RATING: 3 'Bloody baseball bats' out of 5
TITLE: The Hills Have Eyes-Unrated (2006) ~ STUDIO: Fox Searchlight Pictures ~ MPAA RATING: Theatrical- *R* For Strong Gruesome Violence and Terror Throughout and Language. DVD-Unrated ~RUNNING TIME: 107 Minutes (Both Versions) ~ STARRING: Ted Levine, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Aaron Stanford ~ DIRECTED BY: Alexandre Aja
We do reviews and updates of projects of Sci-Fi movies, television, and books. As well as Horror, Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Anime.
Please feel free to sign up and post your own comments. We would love to hear your opinions, and feel free to join in on our collection of over 400 free flash games and compete with other users for the high score. We also have a great chess system that allows users to compete against one another online.