Day 14 of 31
The Hills Have Eyes (Horror, Thriller, 1977) (18) D: Wes Craven W: Wes Craven C: Janus, Blythe, Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Dee Wallace, Robert Houston, Martin Speet, James Whitworth, Michael Berryman. 1h 29m. USA.
Synopsis : On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack.
TAGLINE : Wes Craven’s classic original!
As one of the more memorable exploitation movies from the 1970’s , bringing together fears over nuclear weapons and our beloved bloodthirsty rednecks.
Crazy head hunters stalking people in wilderness may seem like a fictional story, this is actually based on true events. Sawney Beane and his family who were a feral clan who roamed the highlands of Scotland in the early 1400’s, where they captured, tormented and ate several transients. The execution of the family involved such brutal tortures that inspired the Carter family’s vicious revenge. Family and the lack of a family, plays a huge part in this film.
Almost leading on from Last House on the Left (1972), it seems that Wes managed to fine tune the plot a little and reverse some roles, whereas the family were pretty remote, he moves this family to an off the map location where help in totally impossible. Everything is just a step further away from any sense of security. While the movie is still just as raw and unsettling it does push a different set of limits and still has very little disregard for the family.
The Carter family go on a road trip and things are pretty easy going, but then suddenly the film takes a curious turn when their car breaks down, they camp up thinking that it’s just a minor delay and a simple fix, but the tension starts to grow in the movie until a huge pivotal scene where the family are soon descended upon by a group so violent savages who have had practice in stalking and attacking in this way before. As the movie continues the most vulnerable members of the family soon have to man up in order to overcome their worst nightmares and be fearless in order to survive.
The theme of this movie is quite similar to some of the olde headhunter stories often presented in comic books, the styles, even though it’s very much all in the same taste as any early Craven movie has a lot of influence from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and it even uses from of the props from that movie set. As a majority of the film is quite heavy bearing it is lightened, there are some great family comedy moments that almost cushion the blow, strangely there are tons of references to “Human French Fries” and other cannibalism quips.
At times it feels like there is almost an age old family feud going on (as old as those hills), you’ve got the well to do family, with all their airs and graces who are suddenly encroached upon by some revolting peasants (so to speak). Obviously due to the chronic differences in the characters of each family they visually appear different, but also the scripts for each has vast contrast. Scenes with the mountain family are much more dynamic, louder and more energetic.
The lack of a decent soundtrack is disturbing but a decent score on the low budget makes up for that, but it would have taken a similar route as Devils Rejects (2005) with a strong country based OST.
There is a lot of solid acting in this movie, considering some of the costumes and effects for the feral family were a little tacky. It was all managed really well; Dee Wallace was radiant as the older daughter (Lynn) and didn’t have to act when face to face with a tarantula as she was genuinely petrified. The film had the added bonus of having Michael Berryman playing the role of Pluto with his distinctive features and versatility, while the role almost finalised his typecasting it did raise him to the horror icon that he is today. The leading roles were mostly masculine with Bobby (Robert Houston) looking after his sister while the supposed weakling Doug (Martin Speer) changes from modern day metro into primal bad guy while out hunting to save his baby daughter.
Craven has always has this immense edge in his story writing and direction that can cause a lot of people to feel uncomfortable. This film is very unsettling and very raw with it’s approach. It’s quite odd to think that the version we know and love today has the happier ending, if you can call it that, but Wes did have even more upset in store for us.As this frightening esert trip has to be put together on a shoestring, Craven and his team had to improvise where they could, running around the desert chasing down rattlesnakes and collecting road kill to pose as dead animals.
This certainly was a pioneering movie into putting a lot of people of travelling on the unmarked roads. Definitely a nail in the coffin for hillbillies and rednecks alike. Being slightly more of a tea time terror as far as the effects and violence is concerned, the film is littered with unsettling themes, without trying to give too much away, they are regarding the loss of family members and having to use their corpses as props in order to survive. Otherwise it’s a pretty fun flick.
The films works as a terrific violent horror, the only let down would be the abrupt ending, now I’m not discrediting the ending at all it’s a primal burst of energy that is well deserved, but I think there could have been a little more fiennes.
V: While it will always remain one of the granddaddies of video nasties that has inspired a host of movies, including a rare decent remake. I always love watching this film for it’s direct no shits given approach to gorey horror. There are a few scenes that will never be easy to watch, and after all these years it really does stand the test of time.
R: Deliverance (1972) ,Hills Have Eyes ®(2006), Last House On The Left (1972), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) Timber Falls (2007).
L:Hillbilly Horrors, Desert Films
5B: Wes Craven,
PD: POST DISCUSSION TO COME