"The Hills Have Eyes" is Wes Craven's long awaited follow up to his first film, the grindhouse epic "The Last House on the Left." In the latter film, the creator of such horror staples as "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" delved deep into the recesses of human cruelty to tell the tale of two young women abducted, tortured, and killed by a small gang of escaped convicts. Through a twist of fate, the parents of one of these girls meet up with her killers and exact their own brand of terrible revenge. "The Last House on the Left," although not incredibly gory in its theatrical cut, is a nauseating, seedy little nightmare that received an incredible amount of bad press even as it raked in money at the few places willing to show the movie. Craven's subsequent career virtually assured that his early work would receive the DVD treatment. What's surprising is how comprehensive a treatment "Last House" and "Hills" received. "The Hills Have Eyes" offers up a plethora of entertaining and informative extras on two discs. There is so much material of interest on these DVDs that it's easy to lose sight of the film itself.
There is nothing more innocent and heartwarming than a family taking a trip across the country. In the case of retired cop Big Bob Carter (Russ Grieve), he's taking his extended family out into the desert in search of a silver mine. His wife Ethel (Virginia Vincent) is along for the ride, as are daughter Brenda (Susan Lanier) and son Bobby (Robert Houston). Also tagging along in a mobile home is Carter's married daughter Lynne (Dee Wallace-Stone), her husband Doug (Martin Speer), and their infant child. Rounding out the list are the two family dogs, one of whom will play an important role in the nightmare to come. Carter and his clan stop off at a decrepit gas station run by Fred (John Steadman) in order to ask for directions. Fred issues dire warnings to Carter about heading out into the desert. The cop, undeterred by such nonsense, proceeds to drive his entire family into the middle of an Air Force bombing range. When a couple of jet fighters buzz the Carter station wagon, Big Bob panics and veers off the road. Now stranded miles from the highway, the family takes stock of the situation. The automobile is seriously damaged, so Big Bob walks back to civilization while the family sets up camp. Listen to that terror music rise with a swell!
The Carter clan should have listened to crotchety old Fred. It turns out that a family of cannibals lives out in the mountains near where the car crashed, a family headed by Fred's only son Jupiter (James Whitworth). The gas station owner tells Bob Carter a weird story about the birth of his son, describing the youth as a cruel, misshapen child cursed with a violent temperament. Fred eventually threw the kid out into the desert after a particularly heinous crime convinced the father that the son was a real danger. Now Jupiter has a family of his own, including Pluto (Michael Berryman) and Mars (Lance Gordon), with which to terrorize anyone unlucky enough to wander into their lair. As Big Bob races back to his loved ones, the film shifts focus to the family left back on the bombing range. Sure enough, Jupiter and his abhorrent offspring swoop down on the unfortunate outsiders, killing two of the family members and stealing Lynne's baby. The rest of the film deals with the survivors' attempts to retrieve the infant and kill Jupiter and his pack of cannibals. It's a battle to the finish as Doug, Brenda, and Bobby rely on their wits to defeat stronger, better armed foes.
"The Hills Have Eyes" is really a film about civilization versus barbarism. It's also a film based loosely on the Sawney Bean family, a real life pack of inbred cannibals who preyed on travelers over in the English isles three centuries ago. The film relies heavily on shock value rather than over the top gore, an approach that generally works even if it is a bit disappointing (I'd like to see more cannibal action, personally). And there is nothing more shocking than the frightening visage of Michael Berryman to send an audience over the edge. If I had to draw a picture of what I thought an inbred cannibal killer looked like, it would probably resemble Berryman. His misshapen bald head, buggy eyes, and malformed mouth add much to the impact of the movie. He is, in fact, almost as frightening as some of the performances in the film. Most of the actors do a good job with their roles, but Virginia Vincent goes needlessly over the top as matriarch Ethel. Talk about laying the ham on thick! Shelley Winters has nothing on this lady! I'm surprised Ethel and her relatives had to put up with cannibals at all, frankly. You would think the planes saw Big Bob go off the road and would notify the proper authorities. You would also think that a pack of cannibals couldn't survive for long on a military bombing range. Oh well, best not to ask too many questions.
The supplements on the DVD are quite good. The best feature is the commentary track with Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke. They entertain themselves endlessly by poking fun at the unfolding hijinks. After listening to their comments, check out the interviews with cast and crew, the Craven career retrospective, and the alternate ending. Every horror film fan will want to check this DVD out. Even if you've seen the movie before, the extras are good enough to merit another look.
on June 27, 2006
The remake is a joke compared to Craven's amazing 1977 original.
Young kids have no clue what a good horror movie is all about and that's why remakes actually make money(actually most of them lose money) I've said this before and I'll say it again, anyone that knows anything about horror movies realizes there is much more to it than pretty people on screen, loud bangs and CG effects.
Craven's story about a family on there way to California stop off in the middle of the desert looking for silver. When their Vehicle breaks down they are in for the fight of their lives. A cannibal family living in the hills see a means to survive and plan on feasting on the "fresh meat".
So the lighting isn't great, so the effects aren't as good SO WHAT!!!!!!!!! I'd love to see 'any' director take Craven's budget for this film or Tobe Hooper's budget from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and make half of a movie today. Directors today can't even think of an original story.
Real fans of the genre will appreciate the originals, the classics such as "Halloween", "Black Christmas", "The Fog", "The Exorcist", "The Evil Dead" etc. People who still need to learn about the genre will prefer the remake fakes.
"The Hills Have Eyes" (1977) one of the best movies of the horror genre hands down!
on September 13, 2011
Wow, what is going through the minds at IMAGE? This may have passed for a DVD, but for a Blu-ray this looks terrible. The picture is so soft i thought my contacts were dirty from how blurred the picture is. There is no vibrant color or anything to distinguish this from a pristine VHS. I cannot speak for previous versions of this movie, but it is clear that no remastering was done beyond the original dvd mastering/clean-up. This does not in any way - nor does it even say remastered in HD. Just ported to 1080p.
Edit: I went and read some on this and i guess this is about the best they will do for it. So i guess. Either way a soft and fuzzy picture on your 1080p HD TV, cleaned yes, but a soft picture.
on March 8, 2014
Wes craven's THE HILLS HAVE EYES BLU-RAY by Image entertainment
Image entertainment have taken over the blu-ray rights for this film from Anchor bay
Image ent' have done a Good Job giving this blu-ray a new HD transfer, but not an excellent Job
the Picture quality is slightly better than the Anchor bay release
infact the 1:85:1 transfer is from the Anchor bay release just slightly more cleaned up in terms of picture quality
which does look only slightly better than the Anchor bay release only
which means there still little bit of Grain & Dirt in the quality
but i guess Image entertainment did the best they could for a film like this
the sound quality is the same treatment from the old Anchor bay release
but has been boosted up to 6.1 Master audio mix and there's an optional Mono mix aswell
it's not a perfect HD transfer but slightly better than the Anchor bay version i think
i don't understand why Anchor bay couldn't have released this film on Blu-ray themselves
it's still one of Wes craven's best Horror/Thriller's for sure, tons of suspense and some Gore
but it's more of a Thriller than a Horror with tons of suspense,
this film was made with Raw film-making so i still enjoy watching it til this day
so you either like it or you don't really, it's a matter of opinion really
IMAGE have done an excellent job with the special features better than the HD transfer
Image carried over all the special features from the Anchor bay release
the 2 Documentaries LOOKING BACK AT THE HILLS HAVE EYES-55mins
THE DIRECTORS-THE FILMS OF WESCRAVEN Documentary
plus Alternate ending, Behind the scenes photos, original Theatrical trailer, TV spots
posters & advertising art
and the Audio commentary by Wes craven & Peter Locke
so not a bad blu-ray version of HILLS HAVE EYES you get all the content from the Anchor bay release
on 1 Blu-ray Disc, time to upgrade for sure
4 stars for this blu-ray based on not a bad HD transfer & all the extras are carried over
on May 27, 2005
Wes Craven is true master of horror. Shot on a shoestring budget and originally titled "Blood Relations", "The Hills Have Eyes" was the follow up to Craven's shocking debut "The Last House On The Left" (1972). Both films are gripping and edgy, they are both disturbing as well as frightening. The acting in this movie, however, was better than his debut.
"The Hills Have Eyes" released in 1977, (back when pure terror dominated over special effects) is a classic horror film that is relentlessly suspenseful.
When a families camper breaks down in the middle of nowhere on their way to California, they find themselves in a grim battle of survival when they are attacked by unruly cannibalistic mountain dwellers hungry for the fresh meat of obstinate vacationers. One by one, the family members fall prey to these inbred outlaws, until only a son and daughter remain to retrieve their kidnapped baby sister and seek revenge against the cannibals. The movie stars Dee Wallace Stone (Cujo) Susan Lanier and of course the man on the cover Michael Berryman. James Whitworth is awesome as Poppa Jupiter.
Becuase the movie was shot in 16MM it will never look fantastic but Anchor Bay's version is the best I've ever seen. Digitally remastered, this anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is more than impressive. The soundtrack however isn't quite as impressive. Dubbed over after final cuts were made to change the MPAA rating from X to R, the music sometimes sounds distorted and muffled.
Wes Craven went on to direct some of the best horror movies in cinematic history with the 1984 classic, that brought us Freddy Krueger, "Nightmare On Elm Street" and the 1996 blockbuster "Scream" which spawned 2 sequels. "The Hills Have Eyes" is by far Craven's most underrated film and my personal favorite of his. If you're a fan of Craven's and haven't seen "The Hills Have Eyes" do yourself a favor and check it out today!
on September 4, 2011
The happiness was great when I noticed that this film was to be released on Blu Ray.
The dissapointment was enormous when the first screenshots from it were found.
I will NOT spend any money on an upscaled dvd.
Hope there will be a better release of this movie soon.
on May 18, 2004
Once again, much credit to Anchor Bay, a company dedicated to giving fans what they want. Here's a movie that badly needed some cleanup and remastering, and they've done it, plus more.
This is one of Wes Craven's early films, a kind of classic 70-style horror movie, definitely in the same sadistic vein as Craven's debut Last House on the Left, and certainly The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Overall, the film is okay, but clearly a bit amateurish and very low budget. The effort is there, some of Craven's style is there, and it can get creepy.
A hapless, all-American family is riding through the desert (apparently Nevada, or California, it's unclear) looking for an old, abandoned silver mine someone left to them. They find themselves way off the beaten path, right by a firing rage used by the Air Force to blow things up, and indeed, when jets start roaring overhead, they run their car off the road and crack an axel.
They're now prey for a demented group of mutant cannibals who roam the desolate landscape, killing and eating whatever they can find. Pretty soon the family is split up, with some members out looking for help and most staying back at the car and trailer with the dogs.
The strong points are the atmosphere and the sense of dread and menace that hangs over much of the film. This modern, happy American family is rocketed back in time and they must use their wits and might to fight back, and indeed they're driven to acts more savage than their attackers, a major theme of Last House.
Hills could clearly have benefitted from a higher budget, better acting, and better resources. However, the grainy, low budget feel of the film lends it much appeal.
The film does drag a bit at times, and some of the acting is terrible, as expected. The story is basic but has a kind of universal appeal. I'm surprised there hasn't been a remake, actually, what with recent 70s horror re-releases and remakes, though I don't doubt Hollywood's bankruptcy of ideas may drive them to it. These days remakes often jettison the very elements of the originals that made them classics, which is a shame. While I thought the Texas Chainsaw remake was satisfying in its own way (certainly stylistically) I thought it lacked some of the suspense and menace of the original, as well as the social commentary, qualities that Hills does share.
The film is given a tremendous treatment by Anchor Bay. The first disc contains the film in the best quality we're ever likely to see. The picture is incredible; no more poor tape copies or appalling prints, and there are numerous sound mixes on here, depending on your preference and home setup. It's up there with the excellent Texas Chainsaw DVD that saw a similarly grainy and faded picture give way to a totally restored print.
The second disc is full of features, most notable a lengthy documentary made in 2003 featuring Wes Craven and a good portion of the cast, including the amazing Michael Perryman who needed no makeup to play Pluto. (Perryman was born with many physical birth defects, thus his unique appearance.) There are trailers, TV spots, and even a neat bit where you see the before and after effects of the restoration of the film. You can appreciate how sharp and clear the print is on this set.
Overall, another great effort by Anchor Bay. This is a no-brainer for fans of the film, and indeed people were wondering where it was after they released Hills 2 on DVD first (a pretty poor sequel.) Studios and directors could learn a thing or two about cult horror and sci fi films; they often get the most reverent DVD releases, and Anchor Bay has a long list of them.
on June 25, 2006
I don't know how some folks can say the remake is better, scarier, more effective than the original. Even with a much larger budget than the first one, this movie is not one bit scary. The original wins hands-down. No comparison whatsoever ! The low-budget, gritty feel of the 70's one works a lot better than the CGI effects in the recent one. I saw the remake the night it opened back in March and then bought it last week to give it the benefit of the doubt and all I could do is shake my head and think to myself this movie is awful. The acting by the white-bread family is piss-poor, the cannibals are beyond ridiculous-looking, the gory effects not at all scary. In fact, too much gore in a horror movie, to me, makes the movie less scary. Another weak point in the remake is the lack of character development amongst the cannibals. I mean you knew how they became mutants....they show it in the opening credits and when Big Bob goes back to the gas station for help, he reads all the newspaper clippings. In the first movie, Grandpa Fred gives a backstory on Papa Jupe and his wild kids to Big Bob. He doesn't explain how Papa Jupe became messed up but we are subtly told that when Brenda sees on the map that they're near a nuclear testing site. Craven created a more intelligent and thought-provoking story than Alexandre Aja. At least the audience had to think for themselves on why the family became messed up in the first movie. Plus the acting by cannibals in the remake doesn't compare to the '70's family. I saw someone wrote that Lizard in the remake was much better than Mars in the original. What ?!?! Lizard was this skinny little freak who really resembled Keith Richards !!! Lizard even acted corny in the movie, in my opinion. When he invades the trailer, he puts on an apron and a sunhat like a real cornball !! Could you imagine Mars doing that in the first one?? I think not. And when Lizard tries to fondle Brenda, she starts throwing the pillow at him and all he does is slap his hands against the pillow like a little girl. I still think Mars was more vicious and the actor, Lance Gordon, played a much cooler cannibal. The way he acted out his famous lines ("Baby's fat, you fat") and his reaction to when Lynn stabs him was so much more real. Lizard acted like a goof ball when Lynn stabbed him. And Pluto ?!?! Please !! His look was way over the top in the remake. At least they didn't have to put any make-up on Michael Berryman. And Jupiter barely had a role in the remake and his commands to the other mutants were stolen by Big Brain in the remake (Kill the baby !)
The original is so much better in terms of 1) acting, 2) the cannibals (look, dialogue), 3) suspense, 4) directing, 5) location was scarier, and 6) story.
Actually I'm glad they made a remake because it makes the original so much better !
on October 28, 2003
I saw THE HILLS HAVE EYES at the HorrorFind 2003 Convention on August 16, where I met two actors from this film, Dee Wallace Stone and Michael Berryman. Now that I own the DVD itself, I must say that this is one of Wes Craven's greatest movies that he ever made in his distinguished career. Like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE HILLS HAVE EYES explores the darker side of the family dynamic; it also explores the concept of civilization and savagery. The two families, the Carters and the mountain cannibals, both have a father figure that ultimately leads them to their respective destructions; ironically, the cannibals seem more functional than the Carters, since whereas the Carters split up whenever possible, the cannibals keep in contact with each other via radio. There are excellent performances all around, especially the aforementioned Stone (as one of the doomed Carters) and Berryman (as Pluto, the most memorable of the cannibals), as well as Susan Lanier as Brenda Carter, Janus Blythe as Ruby (the most sympathetic of the cannibals), and Robert Houston as Bobby Carter. The final moments of this movie left me in a state of shock in its display of sheer brutality and savagery!
At long last, THE HILLS HAVE EYES gets a terrific DVD release. The picture quality of this DVD is even better than it was in theaters, although a little rough around the edges! The documentary "Looking Back On THE HILLS HAVE EYES" is truly informative and really makes you more interested in the film itself. There's also a truly awesome U.S. trailer and a segment of "The Directors" on Craven among the other extras. Makes a great double feature with the original THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE! A definite must-watch!
on April 28, 2013
5 Stars = Masterpiece
This is my favorite Wes Craven film! The remake pales against this one in my opinion. This is the classic film scenario of the haves, & the have not's. The city slickers, & the backwards, dirt poor country inbreeds, gone totally berserk. Though one would be right in saying this film discriminates hugely against people who live deep in the wilds. This is more of a film on city people's stereotypes of the rural dirt poor. How the civilized urban family can be turned into a viscous killing machine, given the right circumstance, every bit as brutal & ruthless as their backwards adversaries. No one is immune to violence.
Ample amounts of dread, suspense, & most of all pathos, fill this film like a over boiling pot of water left on the stove. There are really tough scenes to watch here, as they dig their way into your brain like barbed fish hooks. The barbs are deeply imbedded into your psyche, not to be forgotten, not to be removed. The scene with the dead mother used as bait to kill the cannibals, is in my opinion, one of the most heart rendering, brutal scenes in horror. The pathos of this scene can not be measured. Yet there are scenes that put us in the city family's mind set, as we root for the families German Sheppard, out hunting & killing the cannibals, & maybe most of all, the final scene of redemption, as the passive liberal non-violent father, exacts his revenge at the end of this film. Yes, Craven knows how to manipulate us with the horrendous, turned into the heroic!
Craven is not a director that I care for a lot of his movies. His sensationalism preying on our inbred fears, can be very heavy handed, but when he gets it right, & he gets it right here, he is nothing less than visionary!