Horror fans must have an almost permanent feeling of deja vu these days. It seems that the horror films that we grew up with in the 1960s and 70s, like The Amityville Horror, Dawn of the Dead, The Fog and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, are all being re-made, which makes the new releases list in the newspaper occasionally seem like it came from the Twilight Zone.
The latest cult horror film to find a new life in 2006 is The Hills Have Eyes, the 1977 Wes Craven film that gave us the immortal line, “We’re going to be French fries! Human French fries!”
The 2006 version is directed by the French director Alexandre Aja who gave us the deeply unpleasant, but rather effective thriller High Tension last year. For the most part Aja takes his lead from the original film about an unfortunate family of vacationers who get stranded in desert of New Mexico, falling prey to mutant cannibalistic hillbillies. The bad guys are descendents of miners who worked in this remote location and continued to live there even after the government started testing nuclear bombs in their backyard. A generation later they have mutated into some very unpleasant creatures with bad tempers and a taste for human flesh.
Aja’s version takes one major liberty with the source material. In the original Craven established that the mutants, although they were evil, were a family. In fact they mirrored the poor family they were terrorizing—all American verses Americans all messed up by their own country’s experiments. I thought the contrast was one of the strong points of that film and lent a tone of social commentary about nuclear testing to the piece.
Aja forgoes social comment for shocks, and although he takes his time getting to the hard-core action, once the thrills arrive they’re worth the wait. This movie is not for the easily disturbed or the faint of heart, but if you like your scares gruesome and fast paced the Hills Have Eyes is for you.