Written & Directed by Wes Craven
Starring Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve
- Running audio commentary with writer/director Craven and actor/producer Peter Locke
- Documentary: “Looking Back On The Hills Have Eyes“
- The Directors: Wes Craven
- Alternate ending/deleted scene
- TV spots
- Behind-the-scenes photos
- Posters and advertising art
- Storyboard art
- Wes Craven bio
Dindrane’s Horror Warnings:
- Animal abuse and death
- Possible sexual assault
Released by: Anchor Bay
My Advice: Get it if you’re a Craven fan.
[ad#longpost]The Hills Have Eyes is a cult horror classic about an all-American family and their fateful trip to the American west. The Carters want to visit the silver mine that a relative gave them as a gift for their silver anniversary; even when a local tells them that there’s nothing there, that all the silver was mined out years ago, the Carter parents are determined to go, having decided that the local was probably just robbing them. As we all know, greed is one of the first Deadly Sins to be punished in a horror movie.
As the Carters make their way into the desert, their RV inevitably breaks down, as the father (Houston), a retired cop with a heart problem, drives off the road and breaks the axle on the lead car. The kids decide to explore alone into the desert (of course), and there they encounter the villains of the film: the mythologically named family of savage, uncivilized, cannibals who have decided to hunt the Carters and loot their goods.
The plot is not without its problems. Like most horror films, unfortunately, this film is not free of its cliches, which were cliche even in the 70s when it was filmed: the prototypical American family receiving warnings, then of course breaking down right where they should hope not to do so, wandering off alone, and so forth. Also, at the end of the film, teenagers who have displayed thus far nothing but the usual griping and teen angst suddenly have rather advanced knowledge of traps, engineering, and physics. Finally, a major character is simply forgotten by the script and never dealt with. Incidentally, the back of the disc case suggests that the evil family is inbred, but while they certainly look the part, this is not suggested within the film.
The extras list, however, is phenomenal. The film has an audio commentary with the writer and director, Wes Craven himself, as well as the producer (who also played Mercury in the film). They do a wonderful job of making the film more interesting, as well as discussing how they did things in the early days of special effects, without CGI. Disc Two includes a fun documentary with interviews of several people involved with the film. Fans of Craven’s work will be well-pleased with the Directors episode for him, including interviews with all kinds of professionals with whom he has worked, including actors Bill Pullman, Kristy Swanson, and Meryl Streep.
The movie also has an alternate ending. We also get a host of minor, but still nice, features, such as the trailers, some TV spots that are just plain fun to see, photos, some original storyboard shots, a Craven bio, and so forth. Poster collectors like myself will thrill to see the original poster art and ads. There are even some DVD-ROM features: the entire screenplay and some screensavers. Really, there is nothing more to ask of this release.
Environmentalists and sociologists will hate certain aspects of this film, especially the way people who live outside of cities are equated with insanity and danger. “Uncivilized” here does not mean unspoiled and free of the baggage with which burnt-out cultures often saddle their people, but rather it means animalistic in the worse, unfair sense of that word–not just amoral, but immoral. On the other hand, fans of well-filmed horror will appreciate the care taken with the shots in this film. The framing of various scenes, the colors used, and the lenses all do their work to heighten the experience of mystery and terror. The script may have had some holes in it, but the action was at least competent.