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Movie Review: The Hills Have Eyes

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According to the movie tagline, “the lucky ones die first.” Apparently this also applies to the audience.

The Hills Have Eyes,, the remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 movie, is a 107-minute, dragged-out, overdrawn monstrosity of a movie (no pun intended). A family of six (plus a baby) is stranded in the middle of the New Mexico desert. The the premise is that the U.S. government was testing nuclear weapons in the desert of the American southwest and many families and mining communities refused to move, thus becoming victims to the radiation fall-out.

What results is a small town of people that look very similar to Photoshop pranks I used to pull when I was editor of my high school yearbook.

The plot starts out simple enough. Like most horror movies, our wholesome Midwest family is stranded in the desert after wrecking their car. It’s Mom and Dad’s silver wedding anniversary and they are accompanied by their three children, as well as their eldest daughter’s husband and baby. Dad is an ex-cop and all-American, red-white-and-blue dad, mom is the typical witless housewife, followed by housewife daughter #1, her Democrat husband, self-absorbed middle daughter, and fiery teenage son. How cute.

The number one rule of “family” horror flicks – don’t get too attached to Mom and Pop. May as well say good-bye to them right now.

An hour later, we’re still lost in the desert. Dad gets tied to a tree and set on fire (it was at this point in the movie I realized, hey, today is my dad’s birthday); Mom gets shot, a brutal and needless rape scene ensues (proving that Sloth from The Goonies actually has a sex drive); and someone gets shot in the head, violating some pretty considerable horror movie rules: people aren’t shot for no feasible reason. At this point, I’m beginning to realize this movie is a waste of time and $7.50.

Family German Shepherd #1 is eaten by one of the nuclear freaks, while German Shepherd #2 is missing. What a surprise. All this for a breed of dog known for being able to kick ass. Of course, the idiot child must chase after the dog. Gee. Wonder what’ll happen next.

Ultimately, we find the “test village” used by the government where the freaks still live. This is the only reason I even wanted to see this movie – that is, if I can actually remember the reason any more – and it only took an hour and a half to get to this point. We never really figure out what the freaks want; it’s not the family’s fault that the miner families refused to move after the government ordered them to, nor is it fair to assume that the wholesome Midwest family had anything to do with what happened. But then again, we’re dealing with freaks, so they have no discernible logic.

Neither does the plot.

At this point in the movie, I became enthralled with seeking out split ends in my hair.

Kid Brother and Democrat, beatnik son-in-law ultimately save the day. Lots of blood has been shed, the American flag is desecrated at one point, we find that Sloth from The Goonies can have another paycheck, and we realize what the ultimate moral of the movie is: don’t mess with Democrats.

I’ll say it – I like Wes Craven. I have enjoyed a number of his movies in the past (Red Eye, the Scream trilogy, The People Under the Stairs), so I held out hope. I was apparently mistaken. The plot takes entirely too long to unfold, despite the fact that the idea had great potential. We don’t know why the freaks are so brutal to the outside world, nor do we understand what benefit a crotchety old gas station employee at the beginning of the movie serves to them. (He ultimately shoots his brains out, for which I actually envied him.)

If you like gory horror movies with no plot and no logic, enjoy this movie with gusto. For those who like to employ brain cells, don’t bother.

The plot has absolutely no depth, nor do the characters. The violence is gratuitous at best. (Not that I’d expect much else from a horror movie.) The teenagers sitting next to me were dry-humping. And I decided that I need a haircut.

The most entertaining part of this movie was the long bathroom break I took in the middle of it. I doubt I missed anything anyway.

Don’t waste your time or money on this movie. Rather, go do something more beneficial, like drink toxic waste. Maybe then you’ll understand what the freaks’ point was, because I sure as hell didn’t.

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About Chelsea Smith

  • “1. Who is stupid enough to stay in an area that will be exposed to any amount of radiation.”

    Um, ghoulish canabalistic mutants?

    2. If these freaks were so hungry and desperate for food, why do they burn the first person they capture??? Stupid!”

    Well, sometimes even canabalistic mutants want a hot meal…

  • Jeff

    I definitely agree with Chelsea’s article, not just because she appears hot from her picture, but because this movie was worthless. Even though this was a remake of a 70s horror film and Aja probably did do a better job in every aspect of the production than the original, this movie still has no real plot and does not follow any logic.

    A couple of things that I could not understand:

    1. Who is stupid enough to stay in an area that will be exposed to any amount of radiation.

    2. If these freaks were so hungry and desperate for food, why do they burn the first person they capture??? Stupid!

  • I watched this movie tonight, and I gotta say that it was pretty good for a horror flick!

    Usually, in a horror movie, the “good guys” are picked off one-by-one. Not in this movie! There is a truly brutal sequence about halfway through the film, and the rest is all about vengeance and survival.

    I’ll admit that the first half of the movie was a little slow…but in an attempt to build up dramatic tension and get the viewer interested in the main characters.

    Basically, if you didn’t like this film, you simply don’t like or understand the entire horror movie genre…

    My vote: 3.5 out of 5 stars…

  • Alex

    Poor, misguided young woman! If your main complaint with this movie was “I don’t know why the freaks were killing everyone”, then maybe you should just not watch horror films. They’re freaks! They’re just crazy murderous psycho people. Enough said! It really needs no explanation. They’re ugly freaks.

  • HorrorFan

    Why does everyone seem to miss the point of this movie? – its a remake of a 70s horror film! Aja is given the opportunity to exercise movie cliches in recreating an excellent Craven original. Have you even seen the original???

    I thought for the horror genre, This remake easily surpassed most recent horror remakes. If you go to a horror movie expecting to learn about the characters you’re missing something – Its supposed to scare teenagers! Aja brings a fresh approach, with cinematic nods to Noe and other ultraviolent masters, and does it more artfully than the Craven original (although I thought the father burning scene was more viscious in the original). You’re looking for substance thats not supposed to be there – the art is in the exercise of the formula, in the tension, in the special effects. I’d give it 3 / 5 stars. If you like horror movies go see it!

  • Thanks for the clarification, Steve!

  • Sounds fairly faithful to the original, actually, which I’ve always thought was pretty good. (I’ve always believed there’s something wonderfully perverse in pitting a traditional nuclear family against a literal one.) I’m seeing it tonight, so here’s hoping.

    Also, just as a point of clarification: Wes Craven directed the original film, but he only produced this remake — the guy you should be blaming is Alexandre Aja (High Tension).

  • Well, here’s one consolation–in New York you would’ve wasted about $10.50 instead of $7.50–but the film sounds like a bargain at any price–not! My ex-b/f seemed to think the trailer was scary–I thought it was a yawn. Thanks for the warning!