17 November 2007

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

It doesn’t look like this review is up at Fire Fox News anymore, so here it is.

The Hills Have Eyes A Worthy Remake
By Kristin Battestella

On the whim my Jason and I trekked to the theater late one night. Not that we wanted to go to the movies, but the elected film was Alexander Aja’s remake The Hills Have Eyes. Unfortunately, Wes Craven’s original 1977 cult film was not fresh in my mind. I last saw it several years ago poorly cut up on television. This update however has Master of Horror Craven’s seal of approval, and he serves as Producer.

The premise remains the same-a vacationing family becomes stranded in a desert where mutilated outlaws torment and terrorize them. Of the actors I can say little, due largely to the fact that I have seen none of them before or since. They do serve the film’s purpose. Ted Levine plays Bob, the hardened father who looses his family; Vinessa Shaw and Aaron Stanford are the naive yuppie couple; Dan Byrd is the bratty son who grows a pair. All are ideally, if tragically, cast.

The Hills Have Eyes (R)I swore I heard of director Aja before, but an IMDB search showed nothing familiar. Aja alters Craven’s original concept and adds a modern nuclear fallout frame to the story. The marauding mutants have become so from our own experiments and squabbles. Through their despicable murders, rapes, and mutilations we instantly find these men as grotesque as they look. When young Doug (Aaron Stanford) has to avenge his wife and save his baby, he becomes almost a ruthless. The audience, however, feels for him. We root for him. We want him to do to them everything that was done to him and his family. Only afterwards do you feel the paradox. Not only are we still seeing the consequences of man versus man, but in order to survive and overcome, Doug has become just as vile. But since he’s the good guy we look the other way.

This contradiction solidifies Aja’s social commentary. It is truly frightening if we look at the reverse. The cannibal mutants are also trying to survive, in their own twisted way. The exclamation point by Aja is the young mutant Ruby (Laura Ortiz). A good girl caught in a bad situation, just like the crumbling vacation family. You cannot possibly see an end for any of them, yet Aja holds you enthralled and appalled. The movie seems longer and torturous than it is.

Although much of the remake’s strength hails from the original’s unique concept, Aja has the twisted privilege of being able to show onscreen what Wes Craven could not. The original is more along the lines of the vintage Texas Chain Saw Massacre. There is indeed something to be said for films in which you don’t see everything, unlike today’s special effects sess pools. The rape scene and subsequent twisted actions by the mutants are not for the faint of heart. Very little skin is shown, yet the jagged cuts and jerking camera work get the violence across almost too perfectly.

In the theater, I actually covered my eyes and squirmed in my seat. The revolting sequences couldn’t be over fast enough. It’s disturbingly well done; Aja did his job. He glosses over nothing, and the movie powers that be made him shorten the disturbing scenes for an R rating.

Although the film’s ending is somewhat ambiguous and open to interpretation (It looks like a sequel is in the works), modern film fans can enjoy this remake as a homage to the old school classics. I’m sure an unrated DVD from Aja will be out soon enough, but for serious gross out horror buffs, this remake of The Hills Have Eyes is worth the price of admission.

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