Credentials: 49% Certified Rotten (Rottentomatoes.com) / 6.5 out of 10 (Imdb.com) / 52 out of 100 (Metacritic.com)
Plot: A family of flag-wavin’, god-fearin’ Americans head into the desert looking for a shortcut on their way to California. Our heroes quickly stumble upon a group of irradiated, pissed off cannibal types who don’t take kindly to outsiders. The next 80 minutes or so are dedicated to insane levels of gore, perverse violence and yes even multiple rapes. Hell, if you’re not choking back vomit by the time the opening credits are over, director Alexandre Aja will return your money and make you dinner. It looks like my 8th grade teacher was right when she said: “All of life’s shortcuts are patrolled by blood-thirsty mutants.”
Thoughts: Aside from a lot of atom bomb talk, “The Hills Have Eyes” sticks pretty close to its source material, Wes Craven’s 1977 cult classic and that, boys and girls, was its first mistake. Craven’s original wasn’t any good and--- despite the best efforts of the cast--- neither is the remake.
At the risk of making myself very unpopular with the horror community, allow to make this shocking declaration: Wes Craven is sorta overrated. Sure, the man helped create two of the most iconic movie monsters of all time (Freddy Krueger and Ghostface), but the one thing he never really did was produce a movie with three solid acts. His films tended to bog down near the end with either a lot of mindless talking (“Scream”) or silly booby traps (“Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Last House on the Left”)
So, I was on board when I heard “Hills Have Eyes” was getting a facelift. And then I actually saw the thing.
“The Hills Have Eyes” is one of the more joyless, disgusting and depraved movies ever committed to film. And despite what BloodyDisgusting.com may say about the matter, it most certainly IS torture porn.
Aja’s camera lingers just a little too long on the charred corpses, the deformed mutants and the countless impalings for it to be considered anything else.
The movie gets off to a pretty good start. The doomed family is actually, shockingly, well-written. They’re not quite real people, but they’re far from hollow vessels with the word “victim” stamped on their foreheads.
However, at a certain point everyone starts losing their minds. People go off wandering alone into the desert; guns are fired wildly at the wind. One brilliant character decides his wooden baseball bat is a more formidable weapon than a pickax. Are you kidding me!?!?!
On the acting side of things, the wonderful Ted Levine classes up the joint as the ex-cop patriarch of the family. As always, the man with the golden vocal cords is fantastic. The rest of the cast is mostly solid, except when the screenplay by Aja and Gregory Levasseur forces them to make nonsense decisions.
Now to the violence. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m no prude when it comes to gory horror movies. I think blood and guts have their place right alongside suspense and tension as staples of the genre. But even I have my limits and there are some things in “Hills Have Eyes” I really don’t want to watch.
Extremely creepy and vicious sex stuff aside (and that’s a hell of an aside), the gore is enough to make even the most ardent gorehound a wee bit uncomfortable. I don’t need to see a guy being burned alive… for a solid five minutes. But Aja’s not a monster. He intercuts the burning with a rape scene. You know, to break things up a little.
Worst of all: Aja breaks my only unforgivable horror rule--- he messes with animals. Never, EVER allowed.
The violence is so hard to sit through, that a movie like “The Hills Have Eyes” NEEDS to have a major visceral payoff to send audiences home happy. (Look no further than reigning torture porn king Eli Roth’s “Hostel” for a how-to guide.) There’s a primitive part of the human brain that still delights in seeing evil punished harshly.
And we almost get it. Several villainous characters are fed their just desserts at the hands of our surviving heroes. But Aja can’t resist the temptation to pull the carpet out from under his audience one last time so he concludes his movie with a shot that makes the payoff seem all for naught.
There's nothing in this movie I want to subject you to, dear reader. Enjoy the trailer and steer clear.
And so there you have it: “The Hills Have Eyes (2006).” There's a lot of good things going on here from a technical standpoint, but they end up getting drowned by a faulty vision.