40 Years Later and 'The Hills Still Have Eyes' - Bloody Disgusting
The Hills Have Eyes – 1977

Written and Directed by Wes Craven
Starring Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve, John Steadman, Michael Berryman, Virginia Vincent

The Hills Have Eyes is another film whose legend outstrips its actual competence by a country mile. The story is actually a decent one, and familiar to those who saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A family is on the road through the desert, intent on visiting a silver mine. They get a warning from a local gas station. They don’t listen.

The family is comprised of a retired policeman, his wife, their kids, and a grandchild. None of these people are safe. None of them are particularly smart, either. Thank God they brought two German Shepherds along.

The sense being watched is somewhat effective at first. The problem is, the buildup is too quickly dissipated and we get a vision of the pursuers not long after we hear the story of who they are and why they suck.

These people should be scary, and maybe for the time they were. Michael Berryman made a career off of his unique, somewhat ominous look. The more the camera sees him or any of his brood, the less scary the film.

The attacks and the subsequent counter attacks are a mixture of brutal and Looney Tunes. There are some decent moments overall, but the utter cluelessness of the family which makes them difficult for the viewer to root.

Wes Craven made an incredible series with the Scream films. Well, until that last one. A Nightmare On Elm Street has its place in cinematic history. Rightly so. His New Nightmare is an incredible story of something so far removed from the original. The remake of this film captured the brutality and made it more slick and polished. This film is not much more than a good idea in the hands of someone who knows not how to make that kernel bloom.

The film would be better if there were more characters like the dog The Beast. At least that character knows when to stay quiet and when to sneak up behind an idiot savage and push him off of a high place.

(** out of *****)

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