Wes Craven remake of cannibalistic classic scares audiences

Ryan Haidet

Emilie De Ravin tries to survive in The Hills Have Eyes. COURTESY OF FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

From the success of of remakes such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead and When a Stranger Calls, the floodgates have been opened for many others to be redone. This time, Wes Craven’s 1977 cult favorite, The Hills Have Eyes is the newest remake – based on a true family of inbred cannibals, which screams into theaters tomorrow.

The film begins with a family of suburban travelers becoming stranded when their van and trailer crash in the New Mexico Desert on a road trip to San Diego. However, the crash was no accident.

Their every move is monitored by a local cannibalistic family. These mongoloid cannibals are deformed from the years of nuclear testing done on their desert lands.

Hoping to get out of the predicament, the seven family members, including “Lost” star Emilie de Ravin and X2: X-Men United actor Aaron Stanford, bond together and decide to send two family members out in separate directions to find help.

Things go downhill for the Carter family when the father, Bob, heads out to the gas station they were at miles ago.

On the first nightfall since the car accident, the film takes a relentless turn when the father and the rest of the family members encounter the hill dwellers. Within 15 minutes, some of the most intense scenes in horror film history flash across the screen as the family tries to stop the cannibals from taking their baby.

For those fearful that this movie will pale in comparison to the original, there’s no need for concern.

In the original, there is no village that the cannibals have taken over. But in the updated version, much of the film takes place in an old miner’s town.

The hill-dwellers are much more frightening this time around too because director Alexandre Aja never gives them a chance to become familiar to the viewer.

In the original, it is clearly understood which monster had which name. The audience is also given a view of their home life as well as given the chance to hear some of their conversations. This time around, the cannibals have no individual identity and their names are barely mentioned. This makes them seem more frightening because of their primal actions – evidenced when one monster breaks a bird’s head off only to turn it upside down and squeeze every oozing drop of blood into his mouth.

When they speak, it’s directed to members of the family in a mocking way. The surrounding calls of “Daddy” when they have the father surrounded are so torturous because the origins of the sounds are invisible. The singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by one of the monsters has timing that creates a genuine sense of fear. This is because he starts to sing it after one of the weakened family members sees a loved one who’s head has an American flag shoved into it.

The Hills Have Eyes

Starring Aaron Stanford, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie di Ravin

Directed by Alexandre Aja

Rated R for strong gruesome violence and terror throughout, and for language

Stater rating (out of five): ****

There’s more to this movie that shines through better than it does in the original. The victims eventually become the hunters when the surviving characters go after the hill-dwellers. These family members become covered in more blood than the cannibals and are frightening when they exact their revenge.

Ironically, they have become the thing they want dead.

Aja, who directed last year’s thriller High Tension, builds the suspense by using the ominous hills and the darkness of night as the perfect cloaks for the hill dwellers to hide. He films the desert in a way that makes the heat jump into the theater. Aja also showcases the gruesome details of the murder victims when he shows the bloody aftermath. It’s so detailed and realistic that one can almost smell the rotting flesh.

There are more than 10 jump scares and almost all of them work.

The often stupid decisions by horror-movie characters don’t seem so stupid in this one because the film is so engaging that what they decide to do seems logical because the family doesn’t think they’re in danger until it’s too late.

It is because of the incredible suspense, tension and great filmmaking that this is one of the best horror remakes that have ever been made. It keeps true to the original but changes just enough to keep the loyal fans of The Hills Have Eyes on edge.

It’s safe to say horror movie remakes have a new standard to live up to.

Contact ALL correspondent Ryan Haidet at [email protected].