Sunday, October 31, 2010

Canon Movie Review: The Hills Have Eyes

First off, sorry for the lack of activity the past couple of days, I meant to watch and review this film last night, but circumstances forced me to delay this review another day. Anyway, since this is Halloween weekend, I decided to watch a couple of horror movies this weekend. Normally, I don't really care for horror films, as I have found most of them to be dumb and most of the films sacrifice an interesting story for lots of blood and gore. So, yes, I am biased against horror films in general, but I did try to keep an open mind with this film. The Hills Have Eyes is a 2006 remake of the 1977 Wes Craven film of the same name. Directed by Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3-D), The Hills Have Eyes stars Ted Levine, Aaron Stanford, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, and Emilie De Raven, among others. The plot is simple enough, as a family traveling through the desert to San Diego is led astray by a gas station attendant, and take a detour that proves to be a fatal mistake, as the car breaks down and the family is attacked by mutated people who have become mutants thanks to the U.S. Government's nuclear testing in the 50s and 60s, which effected their entire genetic code and now all of the people and their descendants are mutants of some sort. Buckets full of blood and a lot of grisly killings follow. A few notes from this film, and there are SPOILERS, so be careful.

- One of the problems I usually have with films of this genre is that the supposed 'good guys' are oftentimes either annoying or just plain jerks to the point where you root for the monster to kill them as quickly as possible. Well, these people were far from the worst characters in cinematic history, but there were a couple of characters I was annoyed with. Bob the patriarch of the family (played by Levine), comes to mind, as he comes off as a gruff know-it-all who is too damn stubborn for his own good, his son-in-law Doug (Stanford) is a technofile d-bag, while the youngest daughter Brenda (de Raven) spends the entire first half of the movie complaining. As it turns out, the only sympathetic characters in the family, the mother (Quinlan) and the oldest daughter (Shaw) end up dead anyway. Well, that sucks.

- The family has (or had) two dogs, German Shephard named Beauty and Beast. Beauty gets killed off about 10 minutes in, but Beast more than lives up to his name. That dog was just awesome, saving Doug on more than one occasion from getting killed and being a total badass, and yes, it is possible for a dog to be a badass.

- For the first half of the movie or so, there is very little violence or gore, as the director decides to take his time setting everything up, introducing the main characters and their personalities and building suspense. While the story seemed to drag at times, I think this was the right way to go, as by the time the cannibals attack, the audience is fully introduced to the family and the total brutality of their attacks over a quick time period really makes an impact on the viewer. At least it did in my case.

- Yes there is a lot of blood and gore and a bunch of mutated freaks and whatnot. In fact, I felt there may have been a bit too much, because after a while you tend to get desensitized after one grizzly scene after another. By the time Doug stuck a pick axe and some mutant's eye, it just really didn't matter as I had seen a whole bunch of other brutal scenes before that. Also, and this is a spoiler, I don't know much about radiation posining, but I doubt it gives people the ability to survive multiple point-blank shotgun blasts or being right in the middle of a giant gas explosion. Plus, is it me, or did Doug seem to lose a lot of blood throughout his battle with the cannibals, to the point where he would hardly be able to stand. But time and time again, Doug found the strength to do superhuman feats. I guess they expect me to excuse that because of his anger and the fact that he wants to get his baby back, but still.

- In spite of all the blood and gore, the two most disturbing scenes to me didn't have a lot of either of that. The first scene that got to me was the opening credits, where clips of bombs being used in the desert is mixed in with pictures of humans with extreme deformities. It's actually quite disturbing and really sad, especially the kids and babies shown. The second scene was the rape scene involving both Brenda and her sister. That scene, by far, was the most uncomfortable to watch, to the point where seeing a man being burned alive intercut with that scene is almost a relief.

Overall, this film seems to accomplish what it sets out to do, to show a whole bunch of grisly death scenes and scare the crap out of its viewers. The cinematography and the score of the movie aids tremendously in bringing a sense of fear and trepidation to the film, and for the most part the acting was well done. Yes, the plot has a whole bunch of holes in it, but no more than the usual horror fare. I admit that the movie is well done for the most part, but after awhile, all the blood and guts just have no impact whatsoever, and the ambiguous ending does no favors for this film (I'd discuss it some more, but I'd like to keep a little bit of mystery in this film review). If you like your horror films full of grisly scenes, well this one is right up your alley. Overall, I'd give it a 5.2 out of 10, as I can see why others may enjoy this film, but I just couldn't get into it.

Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this review or The Hills Have Eyes in general, then share them by leaving a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then share those with me either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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