The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
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Every once in a while, when the stars are aligned and the universe is at one with itself, a remake will out-best the original. Once again, this happens rarely; and, normally, you can bet against such a miracle from occurring. Certain examples I can cite would be the remake of "Dawn of the Dead", which I found to be far more engaging and watchable than the original George A. Romero version that seemed to go on and on forever; also, the recent "The Amityville Horror". Granted, I never enjoyed the original "The Amityville Horror", but the Ryan Reynolds adaptation was not nearly as dreadful as I had envisioned. "The Hills Have Eyes" was a horror film ready to be revamped. The 1977 Wes Craven version was dirty and gritty and violent, but the film was slow and lagging and the ending was just a complete and total disaster. Director Alexandre Aja has taken the same storyline and the same set-ups and created a horror film for the horror fan, a picture so gruesome and so intense that one wonders why Wes Craven just can't seem to cross over in that territory. The remake of "The Hills Have Eyes" is the best horror film I have seen since 2004's "Shaun of the Dead" and "Dead and Breakfast". It was better than the original. It will knock your socks off.
When an all-American family stumbles into the New Mexico desert on their way to San Diego, they have no idea what waits for them in the hills, watching their every move and waiting for the perfect time to strike. Ted Levine and Kathleen Quinlan star as Bob and Ethel Carter, the matriarch and patriarch of the household. Also along for the ride are their three children - Bobby (Dan Byrd), Brenda (Emilie de Ravin), and Lynne (Vinessa Shaw). Lynne's husband, Doug (Aaron Stanford) is also along for the ride, along with their young daughter Catherine. After an encounter with a strange old man at a gas station, they are led down a 'short cut'. When they suffer a blowout, they are stranded in the middle of the New Mexico desert, eventually assaulted by a band of deformed miners who were transformed by the affects of radiation by the U.S. government. The killers brutally torture and assault the family for the remainder of the film, in the tradition of the original, until one of the family members decides enough is enough and takes matters into their own hands. I tried to be as minimal as possible in my description, because I do not want to spoil the film for anyone who has not seen the original. Be warned - this film is as gruesome and violent as they come.
What made the original film so successful was the shock value. SPOILER ALERT: When the mother and the daughter were killed in the original film, it was done in such a violent and unexpected manner that audiences were appalled and totally thrown off their guards. The attack on the family was brutal and beyond comprehension. In the remake, the attack is even more vile and repulsive. The killers are more unlikable than the original ones, and the entire sequence with the camper is one of the most terrifying scenes filmed for the horror genre in a long while. I credit director Alexandre Aja with perfectly capturing the tension and the terror of this film, in all aspects. Take, for instance, the scene with Ted Levine at the gas station, from the time the attendant blows his head off until his retreat back to the automobile - this is how horror scenes are suppose to work. Aja knows this. His "High Tension" was a unique return to form for the genre, and he has carried that over to "The Hills Have Eyes". He has an unmatched visual style and "The Hills Have Eyes" was the perfect film to benefit from that talent. The horror genre has a new maestro.
Another interesting factor to this film is that you need strong performances, something not usually required for a horror film. Most of the shock and the terror comes from the reactions of this family to what is happening. Aja has assembled a top notch cast of veteran actors and strong newcomers to weigh down the horror in this picture. Ted Levine - the godfather of horror - is perfect as Big Bob, and Kathleen Quinlan really brings some depth to such a small and innocent role. Her deathbed sequence is one of the most compelling I have seen in a horror film. Aaron Stanford was nothing short of brilliant here as Doug, especially when his character goes from coward to kick-ass in a matter of minutes. It was nice to see his transformation, and we really rooted for his character in this picture, in a way we did not root for the characters in the original. The real standout here was Dan Byrd, who played Bobby in the film. He managed to steal the film, basically, in a role that is usually given to someone of a more advanced age. His maturity and his talent really came through here. The cast of "The Hills Have Eyes" really came together and made the story that much more wrenching.
In conclusion, "The Hills Have Eyes" was a real treat. Like "Wolf Creek", it is the kind of film that many will find unsettling. There is violence. There is gore. There is evil. Unlike "Hostel" from earlier in the year, this film does not glorify violence for the sake of glorifying violence. The violence has a purpose, much more so than in any Eli Roth film. I do highly recommend that parents restrict their children from seeing this motion picture - it is not for individuals who are not of an advanced age. "The Hills Have Eyes" was a brilliantly crafted horror film from a director who is continuing to impress horror fans the world over with his creativity and his fierce depictions of human nature. Alexandre Aja is a star, and this is his crowning achievement, thus far. It's so rare when a remake comes along that outdoes the original, but this is one such case. If Wes Craven would let loose a little and just go that extra mile, he could make films with this kind of gritty realism. Horror fans - we have a new director for the genre - rejoice and 'head for the hills'.
- added 06/22/2006, 08:40 AM
With the exception of that Romero quote
(comparing the original Dawn to the remake is like
comparing "Shaun Of The Dead" to "House Of The
Dead") and the Hostel bashing, I agree with the
above review. After this and Haute Tension, I can
safely say that Alexandre Aja is on his way to
becoming one of the best horror directors of our
time. It's not often that a remake is even as
good as the original, but when one comes along
that completely slaughters the source material,
well... that's something worthy of a hat-tip.
Let's just hope that the dog doesn't get
his own flashback in the eventual sequel. 10/10.
- added 03/09/2007, 11:26 AM
I thought that Alexandre Aja done a great job in
this film. I've never been a big Wes Craven fan
even in his earlier days. I thought the orginal
moved too slow and it just didn't keep my
attention. I saw this one in the theatres and I
loved every minute of it. It blows the orginal
out of the water in my opinion.
- added 04/24/2007, 11:52 AM
Lets pretend this was the original. This was one
of the best movies Ive seen in years. VERY gritty,
might make you go home and hug your mom.
- added 07/28/2007, 01:59 PM
I would not say that this slaughters the source
material, but it is much, MUCH better. Taking the
original and weeding out the minor script flaws
and filling said flaws with immense amounts of
gore was genius. Aja has yet to fail me, and I
only expect great things from him in the future.
Good on you, Mr. Aja. Good on you. 9.2/10
- added 03/22/2008, 03:18 PM
Best remake so far.. o my top 20 for sure...
hoo... come on... 10/10 !
- added 08/16/2009, 12:42 PM
Maybe I'm just not well-versed enough in this
genre to appreciate this kind of a movie, but it
really didn't do that much for me. There was a
decent amount of tension, but it was never that
scary. I was glad that they refrained from too
many LOUD SUDDEN NOISE scares, though.
I liked it well enough and would consider
watching it again. 7/10.
- added 10/04/2009, 02:12 AM
Not entirely sure why I didn't comment on this
earlier. What is there to say, really? The
original had a nice story, but was unbelievably
boring. This one was so much better than the
original it's not even funny. Like Dametria said,
let's just pretend this was the original.
Alexandre Aja certainly didn't cut any corners
when it came to the special effects and make-up,
and it was definitely for the best. One of the
most violent and brutal movies I've seen in years,
and I still enjoy it every time I watch it.
- added 10/07/2009, 02:59 AM
Definitely a great film. Not much else to say
that hasn't already been said. 10/10
- added 08/16/2013, 04:29 PM
One of a very few remakes that actually tops the