The Hills Have Eyes (2006) Review
Written by: Tim Hannigan
I was amongst a group of very lucky movie-goers who got a chance to catch an advanced screening of "The Hills Have Eyes 2006" in Toronto, courtesy of moviesonline.ca and horrormovies.ca (thanks Michael!). The movie is directed by up and coming horror master Alexandre ("Haute Tension") Aja.
The remake of the 1977 cult classic (which was written and directed by a then up and coming filmmaker by the name of Wes Craven) tells the story of a bickering American family taking their trailer on a road trip to California. Big Bob, the patriarch of the clan
(played by Ted "Silence of the Lambs" Levine) is dragging his wife, son, two daughters, son-in-law, and grand-daughter through New Mexico in order to take in the beauty of the desert (actually it’s Morocco not New Mexico). En route they stop at a gas station, and are tricked into taking a "wrong turn" down a dead end road where their vehicle is disabled by a predatory group of mountain dwellers. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone service, the family falls prey to a mutant clan of miners who refused to leave their land when the American government turned it into a nuclear testing site. Mutated by years of exposure to radiation, the psychotic and deformed miners savagely attack the family. Those lucky enough (or unlucky as it may be) to survive the first wave of attack, are forced to strike out against the mountain men in order to save what’s left of their family.
Once the killing starts, this movie is savage and relentless. Aja doesn’t just go for the throat, he grabs onto the jugular and keeps tugging until it gushes! With each new horror release over the last few years I continue to be shocked by how much splatter is making it onto the screen in the theatrical release. The make-up effects from Academy Award Winner Howard Berger (man that has a nice ring to it) and his partner in crime Greg Nicotero are amazing. Real make-up effects, prosthetics, and only a tiny bit of computer generated effects (you won’t even notice it) create some memorable monsters, gruesome appendages, and plenty of axe-wielding goodness for the whole family. If this is the theatrical cut then I can only imagine what the Director’s Cut will include on DVD.
The acting is solid, and the directing is very good. It is a very exciting time to be a horror fan, watching filmmakers like Eli Roth, James Wan, and Alexandre Aja pick up the torch from the horror greats and show that they have the goods to keep the genre going strong well into the new millennium. While not as good as Aja’s previous film "Haute Tension", this is a solid follow-up, and delivers plenty of shock value for your buck.
The movie is much closer to the original than the recent Texas Chainsaw "re-imagining" was to its source material. That being said there are some significant differences between Aja’s film and Craven’s. Aja introduces a very interesting idea that these people were mutated as a result of nuclear testing. The nuclear testing angle creates some very memorable scenes (one in particular takes place in a small town filled with test dummies) and gives some strong motivation to the antagonists to support their hatred of outsiders. What the 2006 version lacks, however, was the sense of family amongst the killers. The killers are under-developed in comparison to Craven’s film, lacking the strong family bond and family vs. family element which made Craven’s film so memorable.
Over-all a good film, and definitely worth the money to see it in theaters.