I only watched about two-thirds of The Hills Have Eyes, the other third I had my head buried in my boyfriend’s shoulder, in order to avoid the gore and violence. I went into the movie without any background information, only that it was “scary.” Turns out, it is simply a reworking of Wrong Turn, another gore fest I was not particularly thrilled with, which involved inbred, Appalachian backwoods people savagely cannibalizing a group of yuppie twenty-somethings whose cars break down.
The Hills Have Eyes, a remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 film, takes place in a New Mexico desert, where nuclear bomb tests had been conducted during the bomb test craze in the 50’s. The beginning credits, similar to Wrong Turn’s beginning, a montage of mushroom clouds billowing near house mock-ups to test the affects of the bombs, spliced in with aged photos of deformed human specimens.
The audience eventually meets a family traveling through on their way to San Diego. It’s a nice family: father, mother, two daughters, one son, a son-in-law, and granddaughter, and two annoying German shepherds named Beauty and Beast. Despite a couple hitches, such as the fact that daughter number two was not permitted to go to Cancun for Spring Break and the unexplained feud between Big Bob and Doug, the wimpy, cell-phone salesman son-in-law, the Bukowski’s are shown to be a pretty happy family. They are doomed from the start. The family’s SUV breaks down, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by the mutated desert people.
Hills grabs the audience by making the sacrificial outsiders members of a loving family, unlike the group of annoying strangers that meet up in Wrong Turn. Closer relationships help the audience to identify and sympathize with the characters easier. One of the most engaging scenes is when one of the husbands stumbles upon his dying wife; there is a sincerity in the scene that almost makes up for the bloodbaths to come.
The good scenes in the film are the moments when the audience can put themselves into the characters’ positions. They can ask themselves, “How would I feel if my wife died in my arms?” Later, the unexpectedly heroic son-in-law is locked in a cooler of blood and hacked off body parts. Again, we audience members are given a bizarre scenario to contemplate. It is a little more difficult, however, to imagine ourselves fighting in the gory battle scenes.
There is something disappointing in the fact that films like Hills and Turn are pushing back in place the prejudice mentalities movies like Mask and The Elephant Man worked hard to erase. Audiences are conditioned to equate deformity of face and body with perversion of mind. One does not necessarily lead to the other, but the more inbred and mutated characters Hollywood spews out, the fewer chances actual persons with deformities or mental problems have in being recognized as real people, worthy of respect and care.
There is one redeemable mutant, Ruby, who happens to look and act less disgusting than the others. It is almost possible to imagine her going with the “normal” family and living a regular life. However, that does not happen, she’s still a mutant, and in the boundary rules of the film, she is not acceptable enough to end happily ever after.The Hills Have Eyes is perfect to watch when in a bloodlust mood. By the second half of the movie, the camera lens may as well have been coated with a layer of blood, because that is about all we see during those forty-five minutes. However, it is not imaginative enough to be called a scary movie.