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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 brianorndorf

"It makes the Wes Craven version look like game of Candyland"
5 stars

Truly visceral horror makes a swift comeback with Alexandre Aja’s “The Hill Have Eyes.” A remake of the 1977 Wes Craven chiller, the new “Hills” builds on what Craven was trying to accomplish, while also embracing an intricately mounted exercise in torment and bloodshed. This is one flamboyant, exhilarating motion picture.

On a road trip through the New Mexico desert on the way to San Diego, the Carter family (including Kathleen Quinlan, Ted Levine, Aaron Stanford, and Vinessa Shaw) find themselves in the middle of nowhere. Asking directions from a local gas merchant, the family is purposefully sent into hell where a macabre band of irradiated mutants (from government nuclear testing) attack the clan, leaving the few remaining survivors to spend the next day fighting to stay alive when certain doom is all around them waiting in the hills of the blazing wasteland.

French Director Alexandre Aja made a glorious debut with the 2003 Euro chiller, “High Tension.” Admittedly, he screwed up the ending with worthless twists and turns, but the core of the experience was pure dread, and promised a bright young talent who has respect for the art of the fright, and is fascinated with the power of the genre to disturb. That promise was kept for his Hollywood fat-cat debut.

An update of Wes Craven’s 1977 film, Aja’s “Hills” is eager to thicken the trauma inflicted by Craven almost 30 years ago. I wouldn’t call the earlier film a classic, but it has a strong following, and Craven worked wonders with a non-existent budget and a screenplay geared toward pummeling summer drive-in entertainment. Aja has more tricks up his sleeve, along with more coin and wonderful make-up work from KNB to viciously and extensively realize the mutants. Craven was looking to simply scare some folks with blunt violence and a subtle lecture on the primal nature of man. Aja’s film is an absolute declaration of war.

First and foremost, Aja isn’t afraid to creep out his audience, and “Eyes” might upset some with its extreme splatter violence. Like Rob Zombie’s “Devil’s Rejects,” the new “Hills” is a robust genre concoction, twisting the MPAA’s limits with ferocious depictions of murder and torment. The movie doesn’t shy away from showing the shocking menace and greasy strength of the mutants, nor does it turn a blind eye when the Carters try to even the score with guns, baseball bats, axes, or whatever they can get their hands on. Since Aja has the benefit of hindsight, his “Hills” is much more claustrophobic in locations (it was shot in Morocco) and story design. The film drags the viewer by the hair kicking and screaming into doom, where Craven was simply summing up the gumption to suggest it. A lot has changed over the years.

While given ample opportunity to muck around with the original script, Aja plays his version fairly close to Craven’s film. There is a greater expansion on the mutant family, who live in a ghostly, neglected mannequin community once used to gauge how nuclear weapons would affect 1950s suburbia. While we meet more of the “family” in this outing, their dialog is cut down severely from Craven’s script, thus elevating their scare factor while emphasizing their horrifying deformities and thirst for blood. Sure, it’s hard not to miss the magic of Michael Berryman, but what Aja dishes up here is terror, not a parade of oddities. These cannibals are fierce creatures, and Aja makes them into a substantial threat.

Not tickling me quite as much is the insistence that Aja has on cheap scares for the first half of the film. Clearly, the story doesn’t need such counterfeit jolts, but Aja trots them out with an unmistakable amount of pride. The rest of the film has enough nightmare imagery for an entire orphanage, which promptly ends the need to keep the audience percolating, but the damage is done. Perhaps Aja isn’t confident enough behind the camera yet to ditch these needless speed bumps in the pace.

Lost in Aja’s interpretation is the character arc of Doug (Stanford), who in Craven’s film was “the larger idea”: the quiet pacifist turned into a blood-thirsty killer. Aja still plays around with those contradictory ideas, but he pushes the character into more brazenly iconic realms. Here Doug is given the best Sergio Leone encouragement, complete with rattling Morricone guitars on the soundtrack (part of the tremendous score by tomandandy) and some minor heroic moments. It provides a needed thrill in the final act of the movie, and while it scrapes the sour taste of lunacy, it does so in all the right ways.

It’s always tough to get behind a remake, but Aja has chosen a film that was ripe for a second chance, and I feel he’s made a better piece of cinema as a result.

“The Hills Have Eyes” might not have the sneak attack appeal of Craven’s film, or the moral questioning, but it cooks in ways Craven has always missed in his own work. I’m positively itching to see what Aja has planned for his audience next.

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originally posted: 03/10/06 16:06:17
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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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