The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Film: The Hills Have Eyes
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Starring: Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Robert Houston and John Steadman
This film begins with an old man, played by John Steadman, packing up his things. He lives in the desert in a remote area near an air force base. He is loading everything into a pick-up truck and this includes a piglet inside of a cage. A young woman startles him; she is played by Janus Blythe. She is coming to trade, but he tells her that he has nothing more to offer. She then notices he is escaping and wants to come too. She states something about her father is going to be mad if he leaves.
Then a station wagon pulls up with a trailer. This gas station is the last one for 200 miles so they are coming to fill up. The father of this family is played by Russ Grieve. His wife is Virginia Vincent. He has two daughters, one of them played by Suze Lanier-Bramlett and the other is Dee Wallace. Wallace has a baby and is married to Martin Speer, who is also on this journey. Grieve’s son is along on the journey, played by Robert Houston, as well as two German shepherds.
They are from Cleveland, Ohio and are on their way to Los Angeles. Steadman informs them that they are definitely off the beaten path. The reason is that for Grieve and Vincent’s silver anniversary, they were given a silver mine and are coming to see it. Steadman tells them that the mine has been stripped clean and warns them to go back out to the main road. Grieve ignores this and they continue on their path.
Blythe is joined by her brother, played by Peter Locke. Steadman is then robbed of his pig and they both disappear into the desert.
As the family continues on, they are spooked by a fighter jet that is practicing on the air force base and they crash, breaking the axle of their vehicle. They have two guns. Grieve takes one as he goes back toward the old man’s service station. Houston keeps the other and he will defend the women and baby. Speer goes in the opposite direction to find people.
Lanier-Bramlett accidently lets the female dog go, she is named Beauty. Houston goes after her. We hear someone goading this dog on and then it cries out. Houston climbs up some rocks to find the dog is dead. He returns to the trailer, but doesn’t tell them. He is clearly shaken up by it.
Grieve makes it back to the service station and stops Steadman from killing himself. Grieve asks him what he was doing and Steadman is scared. He tells Grieve that his family is in danger. Steadman then tells us the back-story of what is going on. He had a son that is freakishly big and hairy. This child was a problem. One day in a rage, Steadman hit him in the face with a tire iron, splitting it open and then left the boy in the desert. His son found a woman no one would miss and kidnapped her, creating this band of misfits. After he finishes, someone breaks through the window and pulls Steadman out. Grieve begins his journey back to the car.
Back at the trailer, Houston is bothered that no one has come back and that Beast, the male dog, is now also missing. Speer then returns with some random things that he found in a dump. There are no people to help ahead of them. Wallace and Speer settled down in the car to be alone.
Houston then hears what he thinks to be Beast. He leaves the trailer. The noises then changes and he is uneasy. He returns to the trailer to find it locked. He doesn’t realize that inside is Pluto, played by Michael Berryman. Due to his condition in real life, he looks very creepy. He starts to gather supplies. Houston tries to get back. He then bothers Speer and Wallace, to get their key. They are not happy about it. There is then an explosion and this pulls everyone’s attention. It also wakes Vincent who goes out to check.
It is Grieve. He is nailed to a makeshift cross and set on fire. Another of crazed sons, Mars played by Lance Gordon, enters the trailer. He has teeth filed to points and attacks Berryman. He then rapes Lanier-Bramlett. The others don’t hear her screaming until it is too late. Vincent enters the trailer first and she is shot. Wallace comes in next and she wrestles with Gordon, stabbing him in the leg, but is shot also. Berryman and Gordon get away with the baby and supplies.
What will this family do? Will they be able to get the baby back before it is too late? Can they stop these crazed people? Who will survive? Blythe is back in the camp, but she is chained up for trying to escape. The father, known as Jupiter and played by James Whitworth, is a giant of a man and very angry. Can they kill him?
First off I have to say that this film is a classic. I did find it interesting to learn that this is Wes Craven paying homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and you can see similarities. The next thing is that I love the family is from Cleveland, Ohio and that Houston is wearing an Ohio State t-shirt. With that out of the way, the acting in this film is good. You can feel the uneasy and tension. Their fear is good and realistic. This film also has violence that looks real, but the blood is not over the top. That can be a challenge to balance, but this film does it. The deranged family also all looks and plays their parts perfectly. I also love the idea of the dog getting its revenge and protecting its family.
I don’t have a lot of issues to bring up for this film to be honest. I feel that the characters react in stupid ways, but that could have a lot to do with the isolation and never being in a situation like this. The action they have is good, but I would have like to see a little bit more interaction.
With that said, if you can stomach a film like this, I would highly recommend giving this one a viewing. The acting is good, the story and concept are scary. This one is toned down a bit by the violence on screen compared to its remake, but this one definitely has the tension and horror. I do question why it was rated X. If you like the remake, I would view to this to see where it all started. Not for everyone with some of what happens, but it is worth it.
My Rating: 7 out of 10