Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#1,346. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Directed By: Alexandre Aja

Starring: Ted Levine, Kathleen Quinlan, Dan Byrd

Tag line: "The lucky ones die first"

Trivia: Over 16 different nationalities worked on the movie, which was filmed in Morocco

Directed by Alexandre Aja, this 2006 remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes strikes a nice balance between old and new, matching the brutality of the original while at the same time updating the story in a way that makes it all the more unsettling.

The tale is a familiar one: “Big Bob” Carter (Ted Levine) and his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan) are heading west to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Joining them are their teenage kids Bobby (Dan Byrd) and Brenda (Emilie de Ravin), as well as eldest daughter Lynn (Vinessa Shaw), who has brought along her husband Doug (Aaron Stanford) and their newborn baby. 

While traveling down a lonely stretch of desert road, they have an “accident” that completely disables their vehicle, leaving them stranded in an area once used for nuclear testing. Bob and Doug stroll off in separate directions to look for help while the rest of the family, thanks to their state-of-the-art mobile home, makes the best of the situation. 

The moment the sun goes down, however, the Carters realize they are not alone, and find themselves fighting for their lives against a family of cannibalistic mutants.

Many of the intense sequences from 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes - from the fate of Big Bob and the attack on the Carter family to the kidnapping that kicks off the second half of the movie - are recreated for this recent version, with Aja ratcheting up the ferocity  (a la violence and gore) to make each an equally powerful experience. Where this new version sets itself apart from its predecessor is in the “family” that is stalking the Carters, who, instead of backward mountain folk, are straight-up mutants. Deformed by leftover radiation, this family is a collection of grotesqueries; men, women and children who look every bit as frightening as they act (instead of living in a cave, as in Craven’s film, they reside in one of the artificial towns put up by the government years earlier, which were built to determine the extent of damage from a nuclear blast).

As much as I admire the original, which, for me, ranks among Craven’s best efforts, this recent version of The Hills Have Eyes is a vicious, sometimes cruel motion picture that will get under your skin, then linger in your mind for days. Like Wes Craven before him, Alexandre Aja has crafted one hell of a horror movie!

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