The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
the hills have eyes | remake | alexandre aja | gregory levasseur | ted levine | kathleen quinlan | dan byrd | united states | mutants | revenge | vacation | mutant | rape | emilie de ravin | aaron stanford | vinessa shaw | robert joy | greg nictero | howard berger
Film: The Hills Have Eyes
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writer: Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur
Starring: Ted Levine, Kathleen Quinlan and Dan Byrd
This film I actually saw in the theaters when it came out with a bunch of friends. I would have been the only horror fan and it would have been right after my freshman year of college. I’ll admit, I loved it after that initial viewing. I’m sure I had seen the original and during that time, would have said this was better. I’ve seen it a few times throughout the years, but this is only the second time with a critical eye. This is thanks to the Summer Challenge Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs and for October Movie Challenges as well. The synopsis here is a family falls victim to a group of mutated cannibals in a desert far away from civilization.
We begin with two men in hazmat suits. They are trying to take fishes from a creek and collecting samples. The reason is that there’s a text before hand about all of the nuclear bomb testing done in the desert. The government claims it doesn’t have any effects on genetics. These people are they are attacked by a deformed person who is very strong. A sign is also shown that a nuclear bomb testing site is nearby.
We shift to a gas station attendant, played by Tom Bower. He thinks he hears something and he begins to yell at someone named Ruby (Laura Ortiz). He doesn’t find anyone, but there’s a bag full of things is left outside of his door. He tells whoever brought it that he is done and will no longer be helping them. When he starts to look through the items, there’s a Styrofoam container with an ear in it.
Then a vehicle and a trailer pull up. The driver is Big Bob (Ted Levine). He’s honking his horn for service. With him is his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan). His eldest daughter is Lynn (Vinessa Shaw) and she’s married to Doug (Aaron Stanford). They have a baby named Catherine (Maisie Camilleri Preziosi) with them. Big Bog and Ethal have two more kids of Brenda (Emilie de Ravin) and Bobby (Dan Byrd). Big Bob inquires about getting back to the highway. At first, the attendant is directing them back, but then tells them about a road that isn’t on the map that will save time.
They take this route and we see that someone has a spike strip that punctures all of their tires. This causes them to crash into a rock, busting the axle and totaling the vehicle. The damage cannot be fixed so it is decided that Doug will continue on the road and Big Bob will go back to the gas station. Bobby is left in charge and he is upset with Brenda when she lets the dogs out of the trailer. There are a male and female going by the names of Beast and Beauty. He gives chase and hears a cry. He then finds Beauty gutted. In a panic to flee, he trips and falls, knocking himself out. A young girl that we learn is Ruby watches over him. She’s alone with Cyst (Greg Nicotero) watching from above, eating part of Beauty.
Things don’t go well for the two guys. Doug finds a crater full of abandoned vehicles. He takes a bunch of items he finds and heads back. Big Bob makes it to the gas station by nightfall, where he finds the attendant drunk in the outhouse. He kills himself and Big Bob is stalked by something in the darkness. These people live and hunt here, with this family as their next prey.
I want to start out here stating that I’ve always liked this version and feel it is a pretty solid remake. This one does have the feel of being a completely different movie while bringing back some key scenes from the original in my opinion. There is one thing I will say here is that I do thing the reason they’re out here is a bit weak compared to the original, but I can also still believe it.
Something that actually is funny for me to think back on was when I first saw this. I thought that it was really brutal. I’m not saying that isn’t the case now, it just isn’t as nearly violent as I remember from that first viewing. That doesn’t even really start until the last like 20-30 minutes of the movie as well and it isn’t as much as I was thinking. I do think the brutality that we get to come over the character is good as well. Doug is mocked by Big Bob and even to extent Bobby for being a Democrat and not wanting to use guns. We see though that even someone like him has this violent person inside.
I want to shift this over to the idea of the mutants living out in the desert. The original builds them up as inbred over a couple of generations. This one leans more into this group of miners decided to stay on their land and hid in the mines when the bombs were tested. I’ve heard on the Summer Challenge Series episode say I don’t think the changes that came over them would happen like they do and thinking on it, I agree. The children could be altered, but this is literally just people living here for 50 years. I also don’t really buy the super strength we get from Pluto (Michael Bailey Smith). That opening scene really didn’t hold up for me.
Before moving on I just want to delve a bit more into the family dynamic. Big Bob is a former police detective and Levine does a great job in the role. I even think that Quinlan supports him well in the role of Ethel. Byrd works as this different take on the Bobby character and I like what de Ravin does as Brenda. She is more outspoken, but I think that is her age and not wanting to be there. She gets attacked in the trailer in a heinous way that it gives us a satisfying change in her character. It takes her through a few stages of accepting what happened. I’ve leaned into how they portray Doug and Stanford plays it well. Shaw is fine as his wife as well.
Then to take this to the mutants where I think their make-up looks really despite my issues. Smith has imposing size and makes a good Pluto. Robert Joy as Lizard I really like and it makes sense how he plays the role. Aside from that, Cyst looks good, but with his age he shouldn’t be that deformed. Billy Drago is an interesting take on Papa Jupiter, but he really doesn’t stand out to me. The others are bit a much for the concept, but the make-up is good.
The other part of the effects to delve into would be the attacks. I think overall they lean into it being practical and it looks good. The blood, gore and other visceral fluids are all things that worked for me. There is an odd zoom into what happens with Big Bob that I hated. It took me out of it. Some of things with super strength turned me off as well and there is a bit of CGI that just didn’t hold up. Aside from these issues, the cinematography was solid.
So now with that said, I still am positive on this movie, I’m just not where I was after that original viewing. The changes made from the original film work for the most part, but I’ve come to see that the Wes Craven version is superior. This isn’t as violate as I thought, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments. The acting is solid across the board. There are some minor issues with the effects, but the practical were done by Nicotero and Howard Berger was behind them. The back-story doesn’t fit necessarily and it runs a bit long for its own good. The last thing would be the soundtrack fit, but not one that really stood out to me. I would say my rating is has come up from the last time I saw this. It is an above average movie in my opinion just with some slight issues preventing it from going higher.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10