Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Aaron Stanford, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, Dan Byrd
The lucky ones die first
Bob and Ethel Carter is taking their family on a road trip from Cleveland, Ohio to San Diego, California to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. When they get to the middle of the New Mexico desert they get their tires punctured and are stuck with only sand and mountains around them.
There is something more than tumbleweed in these mountains though and it doesn’t take long before the Carter family finds out that their tires was punctured on purpose and that an evil community of mutated cannibal freaks live in this area and are after every member of this family, even their newborn baby!
The 2000’s saw a huge amount of horror remakes, either remakes of classic horror movies that horror fans hold dear to their heart or almost scene by scene remakes of popular asian horror films, especially ghost movies from Japan. I guess everyone has heard all the complaints that all of these remakes was unnecessary and very rarely had anything new to offer to the horror crowd.
I’m one of those stubborn horror fans that disliked the idea of every horror movie getting a decent release being a remake of an old film that I usually had fond memories of. For the most part I skipped them, as I don’t wanna sit through a film that I believe will be shitty beforehand. The Hills Have Eyes remake I did see upon its release however, and even though I am a big fan of the original I still thought the remake was entertaining (but flawed) enough to sit through.
Eight years later and I could hardly remember a single scene of the film and decided that it was time to give it another try. I guess my opinion stays the same, the film is entertaining, but flawed. The story starts out pretty similar like the original film with the first half being spent letting us get to know the family. It then switches things up a bit with a bigger exploration of the mutants, how they became this way and how they live.
The first part works for me and even the middle part when the family is starting to get tormented by these mutants. Even though the pacing is very fast, it still was able to lose my interest when we get to the mutant town. It become more or less just a violent freak show by then and the leading character from the family isn’t a guy you want to root that much for either. They should have kept things a bit more “normal” instead of going over the top with the mutant town in my opinion, it just became a bit too much, especially when any of it has hardly any interest for me.
The time period that this film was made in was also the time of the so-called “torture porn era”. There are some very violent and nasty stuff in this film, including a rape scene that are very disturbing, even though we don’t really see any details. Almost at the same time though, the film has a very lame burning scene of one of the characters which just looks way too fake and was done way better in the original film thirty years earlier.
Alexandre Aja, together with his co-screenwriter Gregory Levasseur, got the job after impressing Wes Craven and the rest of the producers with their surprise 2003 hit High Tension. Aja sure did bring the gore for this, although the character development and storyline sure was lacking. The cast members all do a decent job, but they really don’t have a lot to work with in this film. Which is a shame, I would have prefered a much slower film with more emphasis on the family first and then let the mutants be more hidden and stay more in the shadows of the hills.
I can’t say that this remake of The Hills Have Eyes is a must-see movie, but it is entertaining. As far as modern remakes go you could do a lot worse than this one, although it is also a film that won’t give any lasting impressions on you. I would still recommend to seek out the original instead as it is still an underrated film and one of Craven’s best in my mind.