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The Hills Have Eyes

An ordinary family is placed in an extraordinary situation in this horror remake. To celebrate their wedding anniversary, Bob (Ted Levine) takes his family on a cross country trip to California, through the New Mexico desert. Along for the ride are his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), two daughters, son Bobby, and his eldest daughter’s husband Doug (Aaron Stanford), who doesn’t get along with his father in law due to their conflicting views. When they stop for some petrol, the attendant tells them of a short cut they could take through the mountains. Unknown to them, the attendant is in league with a sinister group who live there and await the arrival of their new prey. The events that transpires changes the family forever, and forces Doug to become the very thing that he is so against.
This is based on the 1977 film directed by Wes Craven, who produced this version. The film starts by giving a back-story to what lies waiting in the desert. The site was used as a nuclear testing facility in the 1950s, and the offspring of the survivors lurk within the mountains. The original film was a cult favourite which further enhanced Craven’s reputation as a horror specialist.
This film maintains the genuine sense of doom that was in the original, and is uncompromising in its acts of horror. The mostly unknown cast do a good job of portraying a realistic family - with arguments aplenty. The terror that they face binds them into a tighter unit. Mostly though, this is about the journey that Doug takes, from being a peace loving person into someone who has to bear arms in order to survive. This is one of the main strengths of this film, as it’s interesting to watch the horror of Doug’s reaction to not only what the villains do to him, but what he does to them in turn. The rest of the cast are adequate in their small roles.
However, the villains are revealed far too early, which dilutes any suspense. It’s always scarier to face an unseen menace than one that is seen too early. Also a lot of the situations feel very contrived, with at one point the father and Doug separately both going to get help, thereby increasing the chances of them getting killed. There are a few set pieces that are very well done, although they only stand out as separate episodes, rather than making this film seem like a cohesive package. The cinematography makes the Mexican mountains look very eerie, with the empty vastness of the desert being a villain that the family can’t kill. The music score is very effective, underlining the tension of the situation.
Watching this film was a frustrating experience, as although it’s quite an effective shocker, one couldn’t help but wish that the creative talent on display was put into an original screenplay. It appears that commercial Hollywood film-making is stuck in a rut of sequels and remakes these days, of which this is just another in a very long line. As last year’s ‘Red Eye’ showed, Wes Craven still has plenty of good ideas to deliver, and it’s a shame that he put his energy into remaking his own earlier film. Overall this is reasonably scary, but the sense of disappointment at watching yet another remake lessens any gains made by this film.
Rating out of 10: 5

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