The Hills Have Eyes (2006) Review
Written by: moviemaven
"The Lucky Ones Die First" should read "The Lucky Ones Have Good Genes." I am going to forget momentarily that this film is a remake of a truly creepy classic in my eyes and focus on the film for what it is. It is a horrifying look into what happens when you can't get a signal with your cell phone. As a side note I would like to point out how humorous I think it is that technology has forced us to qualify in the beginning of every film exactly why we can't get a signal, thereby announcing that we are pretty much done for because we are out of the reaches of modern civilization. But I digress. Let's get on with the review. Aja's follow-up to Haute Tension is not as powerful as the former but definitely solid. He has shown us before that he is not afraid to rain down the splatter and he does not fail to deliver in this film.
The Carter family is on their way to San Diego. They have decided to take the scenic route via Big Bob's Airstream camper bickering the whole way. What they don't know is that an unholy group awaits them in the desert and they are hungry for fresh meat.
Overall this movie is grotesque, gory, and very bloody, which pretty much makes it fun. But as usual I have some problems so let's discuss. Number one, the fact that the resident creeps are disfigured due to government nuclear testing is interesting but really unnecessary. Apparently people are no longer allowed to be evil just for evil's sake. I happen to think that unjustified evil is much more frightening but many filmmakers feel the need to give them justification and it usually involves being deformed for one reason or another. While I can enjoy the occasional freak, I think it was severely overdone in this jaunt into the macabre, making them less scary and almost comical in some parts. Plus I had no idea that the Elephant Man would be making a cameo. I am not knocking the amazing work of either Berger or Nicotero as I am a fan of both, but I felt like I was drowning in mutants. Apart from them being over the top, I also felt they were lacking development as characters. If you want to go the route of having them be deformed then I would like to know more about them. We know why they are deformed, but why do they do what they do? Also in the first film, they were a close-knit family and this felt more like a random selection of escaped sideshow stars.
Another issue I have is the camera movements. Yes I know I bitch about that a lot but come on. I want to see the gore for what it is I don't want to guess about what happened. Once again I beg you future filmmakers out there to please just be the f--- still and let me see what is going on. I spend half the damn movie trying to focus through the MTV style editing and it makes me feel like an old lady watching the new-fangled moving picture for the first time. And that goes for the opening credit montages as well. It was cool in the Dawn of the Dead remake, but it's gonna get old really fast.
The acting for the most part was very good. I totally believed these people were freaked out. But I got a little tired of watching Doug be such a freakin pussy for the first half of the film. He got into it toward the end. He even became sort of badass and made The Maven proud but it took him long e-damn-nough and I didn't fully believe the sudden transition to hero. The kid, Bobby, was skinny as all hell but he had gumption. That I can admire. Although I will say he is the poster child for pulling up your damn pants, at least in dire situations. Jesus, it was worse than watching a girl trip over her broken heel whilst running through the brush. I think my favorite character was by far the dog, Beast. That was one German Shepherd with a taste for vengeance...and freak blood. And he was a true hero.
Though it was filmed in the vast Morrocan deserts, you will have no trouble believing you are actually in the middle of New Mexico. It is convincingly sparse and desolate adding masterfully to the idea that this poor family was on their own. And as usual, Aja deftly reflects the horror of the situation in the surroundings by creating a chill-inspiring palate of visceral colors and images.
Another thing I enjoyed was the fact that this film was definitely not short on the gore. There was a nice headshot and some grinding axes. You even get to see the awesome Robert Joy drink a bird...pretty cool. I expected it and I got it...when I could see it. It won't make you puke, but the cameraman with the palsy just might. I recommend either bringing a barf bag or sitting next to someone you don't like or know with a big bucket of popcorn. Another suggestion is that if you have the urge to go traveling outside the reach of cell phone towers, please take a satellite phone or a carrier pigeon or something. Otherwise you are just asking for it.
In conclusion, The Hills Have Eyes is definitely worth the time. It delivers more than many recent films of its type and even remains fairly true to the original but I am afraid I have to deduct a few points for the above-mentioned gripes.