Publicity Stills of "The Hills Have Eyes"
(Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

Genre: Horror
Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Aaron Stanford, Ted Levine, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, Dan Byrd, Robert Joy
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: M18 (Violence & Gore)

Opening Day : 23 March 2006

Synopsis :

A new take on Wes Craven's 1977 film of the same name, THE HILLS HAVE EYES is the story of a family road trip that goes terrifyingly awry when the travellers become stranded in a government atomic zone. Miles from nowhere, the Craters soon realize the seemingly uninhabited wasteland is actually the breeding ground of a blood-thirsty mutant family....and they are the prey.

Movie Review:

The easily squeamish are advised to stay far away from "The Hills Have Eyes," a bravura slasher flick that would be considered painfully mean-spirited if that wasn't the very point to begin with. Throwing the genre's recent tendencies toward PG-13 fluff to the wind and embracing an M18 (with cuts which annoys me still) rating that is astonishing sensible, the film is marvelously directed by Alexandre Aja and intensely acted by a cast of brave actors who are put through the roughest bolder.

Writer-director Alexandre Aja and screenwriter Gregory Levasseur are two of the best people to spring onto the horror scene in ages, debuting their feature, "High Tension”, a blood-soaked, almost haunting love stories in recent memory. As such, with success at hand, the brutal, nasty, gory, uninhibited "The Hills Have Eyes" is akin to a horror buff's wet dream.

Whereas the Wes Craven original is now distractingly dated in its costuming and music, this scarier, more technically polished redux captures a timeless feel that should stand the test of time. Furthermore, although Aja is working with a larger budget and major studio backing, the film turns its back on the safeness of mainstream cinema and remains steadfast as a gritty, uncompromising throwback to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the like.

For those not familiar with the original, the intro will have u freeze frame the mind set of what’s to come. The level of apprehension and imminent danger built sieges into an abrupt and horrifying release of sheer terror as the family is terrorized by the psychopathic mountain dwellers. Key to the lingering uneasiness Aja creates is not only his stark view of the fragility of life – like the killings of the family - but also his naturalistic setup of themselves. By taking the time to develop their relationships with each other and their almost ignorant belief that nothing bad could happen, the characters' ultimate demises are all the most shocking and unsettling. And later, when the setting changes to a long-forgotten community on the nuclear testing site populated by the deformed, socially neglected killers, the countless display mannequins coexisting in their dilapidated homes disturbingly embody the American Dream gone awry.

The performances are first-rate across the board. In an ensemble where there are virtually no weak links, Dan Byrd ("A Cinderella Story") and Emilie de Ravin (TV's "Lost") prove to be the most dynamic and sympathetic as brother and sister Bobby and Brenda. Their journey, complimented by Doug Bukowski, played by Aaron Stanford (“X2” …yes, he is Pyro), finds them digging up the emotional strength and physical courage they never knew they had even in the face of almost certain death. It's the perfect representation of the fight-or-flight theory, and Byrd and de Ravin are exceptionally believable as they go through hell before fighting for their lives.

If there is a misstep in the picture, it occurs during the last twenty minutes. Until this point, director Alexandre Aja had more than proven that he was willing to do whatever necessary to stay true to the dire situations depicted, leaving the audience nervously off-balance in the process. Unfortunately, there comes a point the script starts to rely on too many far-fetched coincidences and puts questions on their survivability. Had they died, the film's ending would have felt as organic as the preceding 90 minutes. This debit luckily only puts a fleeting damper on the film as a whole, which is by and large an achievement of great power and unnerving courage.

"The Hills Have Eyes" is intentionally vile and sometimes depressing, but that is as it should be for a movie that looks squarely in the eyes of humanity's darkest recesses and life's most unpredictable turns for the worse. For a wholesome escape into a purely nightmarish scenario only bewildered by the end credits (which gave it a nice touch btw…), "The Hills Have Eyes" and Alexandre Aja's instinctual, visually striking filmmaking prowess, works stunningly deviant. His no doubt exciting next move within the horror genre can't come soon enough.

Movie Rating:

(With such brutal exertion of human terror and apprehension “The Hills Have Eyes” definitely defines as a true prowler of a remake even the originator would be proud of)

Review by Lokman B S

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