Review – The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

The Hills Have Eyes [2006]

Starring: Emilie de Ravin, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw
Director: Alexandre Aja
Screenwriter: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur

This film is such a mixed bag, I wasn’t sure exactly whether I liked it, disliked it, or simply appreciated what it did right. Because it does do some things right, and it’s certainly undeniable that director Alexandre Aja is skilled at what he’s doing. But I was left with a feeling of unease. Some choices simply seemed borderline pointless, whereas others just go too far.

The original The Hills Have Eyes is a cult classic B-movie horror film. I can see why, though I don’t believe that film is much better than its remake, though for different reasons. The film, as many know, is about a family traveling cross-country, who happens to get stranded in the desert and preyed upon by evil and deformed cannibalistic killers who inhabit the mountains. Their deformities, and part of me assumes their murderous natures, is as a result of nuclear tests that were done in the desert back in the 1950s, combined with plenty of inbreeding.

It’s pretty generic and cliche killer horror film stuff. But this remake just goes too far at times. Why was there any need to depict the girl getting raped, for example? It’s as if Aja is only looking for shocks, and not actually trying to accomplish anything worthwhile. The unrelenting violence against one of the characters gets frustrating by the end of the film. But is it frustrating because we’ve come to care about these characters? Not so much as it is because it’s just sickening, and we’re left wondering why we’re being subjected to watching such depravity.

Of course, it is not as bad as so many other so-called “torture-porn” being produced in Hollywood these days. I guess there must be a market for it, since such films continue to get made. Saw is currently getting its fifth installment made. I assume a sixth will be on the way soon after that.

Yet The Hills Have Eyes is skillfully shot, and the acting by the protagonists is definitely above-par for the genre. I was disappointed, because the first half of the film seemed to work so well. I was truly anticipating more than the end result gave me. That’s really unfortunate, because Aja clearly knows what he’s doing. Perhaps next time, he’ll get it right.


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