The Hills Have Eyes (1977) (R)
Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes" is a supremely disappointing horror movie, mainly because there are moments in it that seem genuinely inspired...yet most of it comes across as cliche. Beginning in a rural town in an unnamed western area, "The Hills Have Eyes" is all about cults and a little cannibalism.
A family is moving out to California and they have decided to stop in Creepy Town, because what better reason do you have to have that wanting to see the sights? Oh, you want a motive? Okay, on the eve of their twenty-fifth anniversary a couple and their adult children decide that it would be fun to visit a barren wasteland in search of a silver mine. The colorful natives warn them of the area, you say? No need to worry, they won't pay attention to the great advice and plow into the desert where they surely won't wreck their car because a bunny got in the road. Oh, wait, that does happen! I think the only applicable words here are "face palm".
Horror movies are so much scarier when intelligent people make intelligent decisions and the villains are too crafty so that they get the better of them.
This family, played by unknown actors, get wrecked in the middle of Creepy Town and the natives aren't too happy to see them...or are they? The native group of people, who look down on the trailer through binoculars in stalker fashion and communicate with each other via walkie-talkie, seem to think that the family might turn their desert into dessert.
The first night, as the sun is setting, the dad decides to take off as does the son-in-law. They walk in opposite directions, leaving one of the guns with the remainder of the family—a younger brother and the rest of the women, one with a baby.
We are privy to the point of view of the aggressors for a great deal of the movie, which might be original; but doesn't make for suspense or anything frightening. As the night begins to descend, only a few odd things happen like the disembowelment of a dog which should have been the first red flag, but, no, there must be more male posturing to happen before anyone can figure out that there are in deep desert dust.
Honestly, there has never been a stupider family in a horror movie...well, they're stupid, let's just leave it at that.
To be fair, "The Hills Have Eyes" is a movie that looks fantastic. It's made around the same time that "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" would hit theaters and resembles Tobe Hooper's film in many ways. There are both independent films with a low budget (as opposed to "The Exorcist" which is probably the most famous mainstream horror movie of the 70s).
The most famous person to escape the movie (figuratively, not literally) is Michael Berryman as one of the cult family members. He's on all the posters. Why? Because he looks a little weird. He's a minor character who doesn't have much screen time.
Wes Craven's film is never suspenseful and rarely satisfies the guilty pleasure of being frightened. It's full of characters making wrong decisions. For the amount that we are supposed to be scared, there is not enough carnage to provide such a feeling.
Yes, if anything, "The Hills Have Eyes" needed to be bloodier and more graphic...it's a horror movie, for heaven's sake, let's kill some people.
Posted by Micah Jones