The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
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Overall Rating 56%
Overall Rating
Ranked #2,340
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Connections: The Hills Have Eyes

A family going to California accidentally goes through an Air Testing range closed to the public. They crash and are stranded in a desert. They are being stalked by a group of people, which have not emerged into modern times. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: January 07, 2005
In Wes Craven's second directorial effort (the first being 1972's The Last House On The Left), he decided to take a stab (har har!) at the abandoned-in-the-middle-of-nowhere theme. There's no doubt that this movie was influenced by the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which had been released a few years prior to this. In this take on the theme, we find the Carter clan making their way cross-country to visit California. This family is a regular Brady Bunch; we have father Big Bob (Russ Grieve), mother Ethel (Virginia Vincent), along with their son Bobby (Robert Houston), daughter Brenda (Susan Lanier), second daughter Lynne (Dee Wallace), Lynne's husband Doug (Martin Speer), and their newborn daughter Katy (Brenda Marinoff). The gang make a stop at a gas station while traveling through the Arizona desert, where they encounter your typical crotchety old man by way of Fred (John Steadman). Fred warns them to make haste while going through the desert, and not to stray off the main road. Of course, Big Bob decides that it would be an excellent idea to take a detour down an old dirt road in search of silver mines that he may or may not own (this was a bit conflicting, but it's not really important). As they're chugging along down the road, papa Bob swerves off the road in order to avoid running over a rabbit, which causes the rear axle on the car to break apart... the family is now stranded out here in the middle of nowhere. Big Bob decides to walk back to the gas station for help, while Doug takes the opposite road in order to find help at an Air Force base that's supposedly down there, leaving the rest of the family alone in their car and attached trailer. However, this leaves them wide open to a group of cave-dwelling cannibals, a group whose numbers almost matches the Carter family. Leading the cannibals is Jupiter (James Whitworth) and Mama (Cordy Clark); their kids include mentally-retarded Mercury (Arthur King), the deformed Pluto (Michael Berryman), the psycho Mars (Lance Gordon), and the good-girl-who-wants-out Ruby (Janus Blythe). When these two groups meet up, the numbers on both sides rapidly drop...

Even though the basic storyline here has been done quite a few times, especially in the aforementioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which this movie borrowed heavily from), this one turned out to be decent enough after things start to pick up around the midway point. However, that first half of the film really hurts the overall movie. The beginning chunk of the film tries to build up the characters and give each one an identity by showing how they interact with one another and whatnot. This would normally be fine and dandy; a movie that builds up its characters instead of immediately throwing them into peril usually winds up being much more of a quality product. The problem here is the cast... these kids are god-awful and duller than drying paint, and after just a few moments of watching them, you're ready to see the cannibals come out and slaughter them. It doesn't help things when we find out that the star of the Carter side is Robert Houston (Bobby), who is by far the worst actor to be found here. He seems like he's bored out of his skull during his parts, forcing his lines and not really giving a shit about how he comes off on camera. Why he wound up with the lead role when he was surrounded by a cast that was mediocre, yet leagues better than him simply boggles my mind. The only person who was slightly entertaining on the "normal" side was Russ Grieve (Big Bob), and this was due to some great line-delivery whilst he was in a pissed off mode... however, while those lines are entertaining at first, they quickly become repetitive and annoying. The cannibals are infinitely more entertaining, and things really start to pick up when they finally get a chance to shine. Their performances are really the only thing that managed to save this movie... had they not been as talented, this movie would have wound up with a far lower rating from myself.

So then, here we have a movie that is downright painful for the first half, but then gets turned around when the cannibals come out to kill. From there on out, we have a decent movie, which is built up with some nice suspense and action... though I was disappointed at the complete lack of gore and blood, even by seventies standards. It's been said that the MPAA forced Craven to cut a number of the gore scenes in order to get an R rating (and to subsequently get this into theaters), but unless entire scenes were rewritten in order to accommodate that ruling, I don't see much that could have been changed for the better. Sadly enough, we'll most likely never get to see his original vision of the film due to the director's cut having been destroyed at some point in time.

Overall, we have a mediocre film. If you can stay awake for the first half of the film, you'll get a pretty decent finale... though, this is really nothing worth tracking down. Rent it if nothing else catches your eye, but don't say that you weren't warned. 4/10.
Shakes #1: Shakes - added 07/08/2008, 05:39 AM
For some reason, I just could not get into this movie.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added 07/09/2008, 12:48 AM
Most people could, but I'm with you. I enjoyed it well and good but, much like "The Last House on the Left", this is one of the most overhyped horror "classics" of all time; it was like orgasming in the most uncomfortable way possible and then realizing that there's blood in your semen... hey, atleast you can say you saw it. 4.6/10

...still better than "LHotL"...
Tristan #3: Tristan - added 07/09/2008, 02:06 AM
I'm with all of you. This movie was boring, and I can't believe it's hailed as a horror classic. The remake is eons better than this piece of shit. 2/10
Hellknight03 #4: Hellknight03 - added 07/02/2009, 09:49 PM
Yeah boring movie. I cant believe this was Cravens third film (or whichever it was, I dont care enough to find out). It seems like such a student film. I just assumed it was his first film based on how ordinary it was. Boy was I wrong and am still confused about that. Maybe he just did it for the money (the review mentions its one of the post texas chainsaw rip off movies - which makes sense).
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