Don't forget to join in on the month long celebration of horror with #ScaryMovieMonthAtDCM
Horror won't be the same without Wes Craven. It just won't be. The Hills Have Eyes is Craven's second feature film, after his debut just five years earlier with 'The Last House on the Left.' It's the beginning of what will go on to be a legendary career, and his legacy will never be forgotten. The Hills Have Eyes, in my opinion, is necessary viewing. Not because it's the greatest film ever made, nor the scariest, but because it shows the filmmaking development of one of the greats.
The Hills Have Eyes follows the story of a family travelling to California for vacation. They're on a road trip, but after stopping for gas they end up trailing off the path and into the middle of nowhere. Not knowing where they've ended up or how to get out, they set up their trailer on the side of the road. They split up, hoping to find someone willing to help. As they start to look around, they discover nobody who's willing to help them out. In fact, they discover nobody at all. But somebody finds them. And these somebody's just so happen to be violent savages who are not up to date with modern times. They start to hunt the family down, getting at them one by one, in the hopes of..... you know.... eating them. Because who wouldn't want to have a nice roasted baby for dinner? I know I sure would!
Between its strangeness, The Hills Have Eyes has glimmers of brilliance. There's some classic Craven to be found in this cult classic. There's everything from his strange sense of humour to his ways of building tension, and it all works. It's dark, but fun, and the result is a film that's really worthwhile. Craven has some great ideas that he's playing around with, and while they don't always come across flawlessly on screen, they're certainly there, and that's undeniable.
The family members themselves are rather uninteresting characters. They're all clichéd, dull and annoying, each having something different to complain about. There's none that have anything to really connect with, and none appear to be the protagonist of the movie. However, it's the group of savages that really hooked my interest. They suddenly made this seemingly-average movie into something special, and all they had to do was show up. Because when they do, that's when the fun begins.
Once the sun sets, the mayhem begins, and Craven sure knows how to party. Anything goes in this desert. With no way of escape, the family are stuck there, and when trouble comes around, it hits hard. The result? A violent and unpredictable grindhouse flick that's a hell of a lot of fun. There's no depth. There's no character development. There's nothing sophisticated. It's just a family trying to escape a group of cannibals. Think Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but on a lower budget and not nearly as iconic.
To sum up, The Hills Have Eyes is a fun, violent and unpredictable grindhouse flick with a lot of classic Craven. It's not perfect, it's certainly bizarre and it's a little clichéd, but as a whole, it's essential viewing, especially after the loss of the horror genius that is Wes Craven.
3 1/2 Stars