“We’re not alone.”
The effects of nuclear testing have had a long lasting and devastating effect on a desolate mining community in the hills of the New Mexico desert. One thing’s clear – someone has to pay.
On their 25th wedding anniversary, Bob (Ted Levine) and Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), traveling across the desert in their Airstream trailer with their entire family, are about to cross paths with a pack of mutant cannibals hell bent on exacting revenge.
This 2006 remake of the original Wes Craven film, is helmed by Alexandre Aja, the director responsible for terrifying (and delighting) us with High Tension. Aja dares to take the audience into some very palatable dark places. Places where real terror resides. Forget the supernatural. Forget the inexplicable. In Aja’s vision, there is reason everywhere, and the dangers are very tangible.
When I saw this film years ago, I swore I would never watch it again. The Hills Have Eyes evoked such terrible feelings, such fear, such disgust, that I could barely make it through the film. Imagine then the groan I made when I realized The Hills Have Eyes had earned a place on the Top 50 Scariest Movies of All Time list and I knew (KNEW!!) I had to endure the film again.
Gah!! Fine. Challenge accepted.
The sense of dread is absolutely overwhelming as I make my way through the 17 films preceding it on the list, and eventually, that little red Netflix envelope arrives in the mailbox. The anxiety is so acute that I can barely sleep the night before I know I will wake up and have to watch it. In fact, I wake early, on a Saturday, at around 7 in the morning. No longer able to stand it, I pop in Alexandre Aja’s version of The Hills Have Eyes and again live through what is probably the most terrifying ordeal ever faced by a celluloid family.
The trailer attack. God. All I have to say is – kudos on performances from Aaron Stanford, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, and Dan Byrd. After all, special effects help flesh out a movie, to make it more real, but without the blood, sweat, and fears of its cast, a horror film is little more than gore.
The horrors this family faces are completely astounding and only surpassed by their drive, their will to survive.
All of this, all of these things, these feelings, these emotions, this reaction – in essence, it means Aja has made a masterpiece of horror. True horror. Not of the teen scream variety. This is a film for adults about the horror of reality.
Aja’s tapped into the very nerve of what terrifies an audience and he manipulates it to the fullest extent possible, utilizing every tool in his toolkit to ratchet it up until you can barely take it. Effects crew on the film included the genius of Greg Nicotero (GREG NICOTERO!!), CGI-a-plenty, true blue cinematic fakes, 1-shot real deal car crashes, and foam latex character design galore.
What I’m saying is that The Hills Have Eyes is no joy ride. You want to be scared? Fine. The Hills Have Eyes is the film is for you. Just be careful what you ask for because Aja will give it to you. In spades.
The Hills Have Eyes … in a nutshell:
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Watch or buy The Hills Have Eyes (2006) on Amazon
Watch or buy The Hills Have Eyes (1977) on Amazon