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The Hills Have Eyes
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The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

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Plot Summary:
"A suburban American Family is being stalked by a group of psychotic people who live in the desert, far away from civilization."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 07 December 2007 My Rating: out of 5


American family (led by gun-totin’, macho Republican ex-cop Ted Levine) on a road trip across the New Mexico desert in their Winnebago, end up terrorised by mutants in the hills. Kathleen Quinlan is the ex-hippie mother, and Dan Byrd is the kid with two positively wonderful dogs named Beauty and Beast. Billy Drago and Robert Joy play two of the mutants.

Somewhat faithful to the memorable (if nothing else) Wes Craven original, this remake by the talented Alexandre Aja (the bloody, top-notch giallo-esque “Haute Tension”) falters whenever the mutants turn up. Aja gives us a bunch of too-made up looking mutants that simply aren’t scary (they’re a little too creature features or “Toxic Avenger” for me), even though they have an interesting nuclear-testing backstory. The only exception is the always fascinatingly idiosyncratic Drago, and unfortunately he doesn’t show up until the end. Sadly, the (more) human characters aren’t much better, with the exception of Levine (who hasn’t much screen time) and the kid. Having said that, I don’t remember liking the family in the original much either.

Still, it’s a shame, because the rest of the film (thematically and cinematically) works relatively well (the world the film is set in, is conceived interestingly and the basic story still has power), if not as intense as the original (including the trailer attack scene, the dopey mutants and annoying shaky-cam MTV-style filmmaking which nearly ruin the effectiveness here). Opening titles featuring nuclear testing victims are morally repugnant at a moment’s thought, but certainly attention grabbing. I still think Aja is a considerable talent (MTV-trappings aside, he and co-writer Gregory Levasseur set things up interestingly, and thankfully Aja doesn’t skimp on the gore. Great shotgun to the head in particular), and the film is beautifully shot by Maxime Alexandre.

Better than most horror remakes, but you’re still better off sticking with the often intense original. And no cameo for the still-active Michael Berryman? What’s up with that?

Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 10 March 2006 My Rating: out of 5

Following the same basic outline as the original, Alex Aja's update sees the Carter family stranded in the New Mexico Desert after they crash their car, only to be set upon by a family of animalistic and cannibalistic mutants, who have survived nuclear testing and managed to spawn more inbred bloodthirsty offspring.

The cast are excellent here with every character or actor being better than their original counterpart, and boy is it gruesome.

The film starts as it means to go on, but is perfectly paced, slowly building tension, whilst creating a truthful family dynamic as the audience gets to know the Carters before truly brutal violence unfolds amidst some of the most relentless set pieces I have ever seen in a cinema.

People may have doubted the make-up job on Pluto, but once in action he is terrifying and thankfully a polar opposite to Michael Berryman's original incarnation. Berryman is a genre favourite as is his character, so making the new Pluto drastically different was the right way to go in my humble opinion, as no-one will be quick to make comparisons between the two.

The make-up and effects work is top notch, the creepiest factors remain or are reworked and other subtle elements are enhanced to give the story more resonance. Similarly, the political aspects are not overplayed and they work.

The only things that slightly niggled me were the lack of screen time some of the mutants got (I'm not even sure who all of them were) and the fact that the film followed the original's storyline so closely, which meant that I was exactly aware of what was about to happen the entire time.

Definitely in need of a remake, Aja and his entire cast and crew have worked together to update a timeless tale and by enhancing certain aspects and including realistic though not overly graphic violence, all concerned parties have created a wonderful retelling of an okay film. The results make this one of the better remakes alongside Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. An absolute must see for ALL horror fans.

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