The Hills Have Eyes

When the most compelling, and more importantly, most intelligent member of a cast is the dog, that's a big warning sign. So goes The Hills Have Eyes, a remake of Wes Craven's 1977 movie of the same name. It also brings to mind some other burning questions with "horror" movies. Everybody knows that modern vampires are all masters of martial arts and dress like Goth Euro trash. Now, it's clear that mutants, hillbillies, or other assorted inbred baddies are all homicidal maniacs, have superhuman strength, and an aversion to clean clothes and tidy houses. Why? That has yet to be explained.

The mutants in The Hills Have Eyes live far out in the desert of New Mexico, far away from anybody else. They are the descendents of a group of miners who refused to move away once the government began nuclear testing. Now, they are horrifically disfigured, and ready to eat anybody who may be unlucky enough to pass their way. The Carters, courtesy of director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Furia), who co-wrote the adaptation with Gregory Levasseur (High Tension, Break of Dawn). Aja was the person behind the French hit High Tension, which rattled audiences worldwide with its incredible level of intensity. Aja falters here, upping the ante on gore, and filling his movie with some of the dumbest characters in recent history.

The Carters are on a road trip to California, and a spike-strip ruins the promise of a short cut. Soon, they men disperse in different directions to look for help while the women stay behind. Things quickly degenerate when the mutants arrive, killing one family member, sexually assaulting another, then kidnapping a baby. Aja clearly wants to shock his audience, and goes for broke in what he shows. Part of the reason for the incessant brutality is to show how ordinary people will react in such extreme circumstances. Here, he wants to examine how Doug Bukowski (Aaron Stanford, Spartan, Winter Solstice) responds to the kidnapping of his baby (he's married to one of the Carters' daughters). Bukowski is something of a wimp. How does the audience know this? Because Bobby Carter (Dan Boyd, A Cinderella Story, 28 Days) said so. Plus, he has glasses. However, with the knowledge of what happened to his wife and the thought of what may happen to his newborn child, he turns into a gun-toting maniac on a one-man mission to kill as many people as possible, and to rescue his baby.

So the adrenaline is running high, the uncertainty level is higher, and Bobby, Doug, and Brenda Carter (Emilie de Ravin) begin plotting their revenge. Even with the circumstances, it's hard to see them making some of the decisions they do. Without giving any decisions or plot points away, there is an insanely bone-headed incident with a radio, and many others with a gun. These aren't decisions that people, even people under extreme duress make, they are decisions to cause other things in The Hills Have Eyes to happen. Aja is also good at tricking the audience into believing there is more going on here than there actually is. The story is pretty flimsy, but nobody will notice because of the constant assault, visual and aural, on the senses. There are only small pauses between severed limbs, gunshots, grotesque bodies, and lots and lots of death. It's great visually, but in order to mean something Aja needed to put a bit more substance in here.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated R for strong gruesome violence and terror throughout, and for language.

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