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Overall Rating

Awesome: 24.51%
Worth A Look: 25.49%
Pretty Bad: 15.69%
Total Crap: 3.92%

8 reviews, 54 user ratings

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Hills Have Eyes, The (2006)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Nasty but needless remake."
2 stars

I wonder if the reason that the resolutely unscary "Blair Witch Project" scared so many people was that it had no stars. When you don't recognize anyone onscreen from TV or other movies, you feel that anything can happen to them; they have, as yet, no image to protect.

The vintage horror films of the '70s, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween to some extent (whose only big name at the time was Donald Pleasence), and Wes Craven's 1977 The Hills Have Eyes, worked like that. The problem -- well, one problem among many -- with today's horror movies is that the studios, despite the evidence of Blair Witch, think stars are required to get butts in seats. So we get movies like the Chainsaw remake, the Dawn of the Dead remake, and now the Hills Have Eyes remake with comfortingly familiar faces you expect to survive till the end credits.

This new Hills Have Eyes has been scrupulously copied from Craven's original template by hotshot French horror director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, released in the U.S. as High Tension). Craven himself was one of the remake's producers, so he can't complain, even if we can. Like Rob Zombie (The Devil's Rejects) and Eli Roth (Hostel), Aja loves the disreputable, ornery grindhouse horror of the '70s, and his work here and in Haute Tension is exceptionally well-crafted, if unavoidably derivative. Aja's Hills is shinier, gorier, and nastier than Craven's Hills, though it has demerits of its own.

As before, we meet a family -- headed by macho retired cop Bob (Ted Levine) and his ex-hippie wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan) -- driving to California with their three teen-to-adult kids, a son-in-law, a baby, and two dogs named Beauty and the Beast. As before, young male power carries the day, right down to the fates of Beauty (don't get too attached to her) and the Beast (arguably the hero of the movie). The parents, whom the remake goes out of its way to establish as Republican, haven't a clue how to survive out in the desert when their car is totalled, especially when a second family made up of deformed nuclear-testing casualties comes out to play.

Up-and-coming young actors Aaron Stanford (as the liberal son-in-law -- he's Meathead to Levine's Archie Bunker) and Lost's Emilie de Ravin (as one of the daughters) reassure you they'll make it to the end, even if you haven't seen the original. Similarly, the mutants, though imaginatively designed, are a bit too monster-movieish; they're just make-up, not truly menacing. (The original film's Michael Berryman needed no make-up, and you knew that such a low-budget film couldn't afford to make anyone look like Berryman naturally did.) It doesn't help that the mutants are given far less screen time than in the original. You barely know why one of the more compassionate mutants (Laura Ortiz) risks her life to keep the family's baby safe once it's been kidnapped, and you don't even meet the mutants' patriarch Jupiter until the very end. What was once a crude but effective parallel study of two dysfunctional family units is now just a Saturday-night shocker for teenagers.

As such, this Hills sometimes delivers, simply by way of its willingness to be nasty. But there's a difference between Aja's homage to nastiness and Craven's genuine, Manson-and-Kent-State-inspired nastiness back in the day. It's self-conscious nastiness, once removed from its motivating source. Some will point to the moment when the most vicious mutant molests a young mother while pointing a gun at her baby; others will single out the film's anti-American streak (and sneeringly add that the director is French) -- both, of course, were also in the 1977 version. One major new addition, a tour through a bomb-blasted town (with such touches as a fat bald woman glued to Jerry Springer on TV and a character named "Big Brain" in obvious tribute to Chris Cunningham's freaky Rubber Johnny video), works well if only because we haven't seen it before.

And here what was subtle subtext in the original becomes overexplicit: The mutants are to us what Godzilla was to Japan -- monsters forged in the heat of military/nuclear hubris. See, Aja is saying, we create our own terror(ists). But then it's back to the original template, wherein we comfortably watch familiar faces pick-axing heavily latexed boogeymen.

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originally posted: 12/26/06 05:32:30
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell harsh but alot better than the original 4 stars
4/01/16 Aj wales This is better than the original. 4 stars
1/04/14 Marty Pretty solid horror movie with some gross-out moments and good acting/action. 4 stars
8/12/11 jiropan best brutal and intense movie 5 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles EXCELLENT 5 stars
9/07/10 art never saw the original!,so this verison is GET"s a "THUMb's up'' from your's truly! 4 stars
3/07/10 randy todger awesome 5 stars
12/31/09 art AN EXCELLENT HORROR FILM!,and this was a remake?,you could knock me with a feather! 1 4 stars
10/20/08 Shaun Wallner Scary Film! 5 stars
7/20/08 Shaun Wallner Bloody Awesome!!! 5 stars
7/12/08 John Millheim Creepy, good horror, the dudes are gross looking in the hills 5 stars
6/28/08 Danny See the original instead. Trust me on this one. 1 stars
12/09/07 Vincent sick horror movie 5 stars
7/21/07 al smith fucking amazing nuff said 5 stars
4/27/07 Total Crap Very disturbing, but it's no "Last House on the Left" 3 stars
3/01/07 Beau So disgusting !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i wouldnt see it again but not too bad horror 3 stars
2/16/07 Axel Leos boring and why make remakes, they only ruin the original movie 2 stars
12/30/06 Pavid Smorpal33ni bad film. 1 stars
11/03/06 David Pollastrini good gore. 4 stars
10/23/06 WTF Ugh, Man! What the Fuck?! This is Ultra-Disturbing. And the gore. I could not eat a chip. 4 stars
10/09/06 Booksworm Aww, I was hoping you'd like it.That way I could say it was crap. 1 stars
10/01/06 Soraya ROBERT JOY was incredible as LIZARD! What a great movie and well acted too... 5 stars
8/29/06 Nick A lot of gore! And good emotions! Nice Job Wes! 4 stars
8/12/06 Indrid Cold Does a great job bringing the pain and otherwise defying expectations. 4 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist Not enough cannibalism,the head psycho resembledRubberJohnny&that dog kept being the hero 1 stars
8/02/06 dan alot like the original but worth watching 4 stars
7/24/06 Samuel I'm not sure it's a sgood as the origional, but it's right up there...damn good remake!! 4 stars
7/11/06 Kyle Technically better than orig., but the main characters are a bit more wooden. 3 stars
6/27/06 Dillon This movie has balls. Props to Aja and his crew. 4 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley Goes on a bit. Satisfying for the gorehounds but little else. 3 stars
6/24/06 Mike How is this different than Wrong Turn? Wrong turn into desert and attacked by cannibals 3 stars
6/13/06 Tasia I loved this movie...even if it was a little different from the was worth it! 5 stars
6/05/06 misty great 5 stars
5/12/06 Marcia Zarwetten-Grassi Like 3 kids & a baby could survive in desert after blowin up their food & water. Yeah! 3 stars
4/30/06 Alex de Fig I'm glad thats over. Entertaining but very unsettling. 3 stars
4/23/06 Dan I liked this... Alexandre Aja is a top director 5 stars
4/18/06 Dave Pretty good, but not a classic horror film at all 4 stars
4/13/06 San Lamar A MUST SEE!!!! AMAZING!!!! 5 stars
4/06/06 Troy M. Grzych Predictable and Reminisent of "Texas Chainsaw" but provides some scares. 3 stars
4/04/06 haney awesome!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
4/04/06 y2mckay first half drags, last half is gruesome fun (I counted at least four axe-to-head scenes) 3 stars
4/03/06 JRE it's really scary, but disgusting at the same time. if you're squimish, stay away 4 stars
3/30/06 M. Dido Ted Levine is a demigod! Everyone else pales by comparison! 3 stars
3/24/06 jesika umm.. if uve seen texas chain saw/wrong turn- my friend - uve seen this one - ugh! 2 stars
3/24/06 Ole Man Bourbon Pretty shittty really 2 stars
3/23/06 ROY L. CAIN JR. What a horror movie should be. Pass the kayro syrup ! 5 stars
3/22/06 Bryan Locks This film is alot more disturbing than scary.Unless your'e a sick freak, don't waste your $ 2 stars
3/20/06 Dk Not scary enough just ultra bloody 3 stars
3/16/06 bob furgerson Best horror movie I have seen in a long time 5 stars
3/15/06 great surprised at all the bad reviews, i thought it was really good, really disturbing scenes 5 stars
3/14/06 Lester M. Davis What more can you ask of a horror flick. 3 stars
3/14/06 Tyler L Awesome movie, Aja is someone to keep an eye on. 5 stars
3/13/06 Juicy J I puked from this glory!! 5 stars
3/12/06 lee Although intense and brutal, the film runs out of steam. 3 stars
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  10-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 20-Jun-2006



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