For a horror movie fan, having the opportunity to re-imagine a cult classic you grew up with, under the supervision of the original movie’s director, sounds like a dream come true. French writer/director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Grégory Levasseur found themselves in this very situation when they started working on the remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 classic THE HILLS HAVE EYES, which Fox Searchlight releases March 10, 2006. “Wes Craven was one of our childhood heroes,” says Aja, who previously teamed with Levasseur on the French bloodfest HIGH TENSION. “Greg and I bonded over one of his movies, SHOCKER, and THE HILLS HAVE EYES served as a huge inspiration when we made HIGH TENSION, so we really couldn’t be happier.”
Craven and longtime producing partner Marianne Maddalena had seen HIGH TENSION at a screening organized by their agent, and showed it to Peter Locke, producer of the original HILLS and co-producer of the new version (along with Craven’s longtime partner Marianne Maddalena). “We all agreed it was brilliant,” says Maddalena, “so we met the guys, they pitched their idea for a remake and we loved it. Obviously they knew how to make a horror film, and they came in with such passion, we thought, ‘How could we not do it?’ ”
Shot in seven weeks in the Moroccan desert, a rather unusual location for a genre film, the new HILLS retains the first movie’s premise and storyline—members of a family stranded in the desert after a car crash have to fight for their lives when they discover that they are surrounded by a family of mutants—while adding new twists and a backstory. “The original HILLS is a classic in its own way,” explains associate producer Cody Zwieg, “but everybody involved would agree that it wasn’t necessarily a perfect movie. They shot it fast, they had no money, they made it as scary as possible with an incredibly original story, but they had their limitations. I believe we’re able to take it a step further, whether it’s with prosthetics, or visual effects, or expanding the story. When you look at something like that, why not try to update it, breathe new life into it?”
Aja and Levasseur gathered an impressive set of talents for both the normal and degenerated family. Ted (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) Levine, Kathleen (EVENT HORIZON) Quinlan, Aaron (X2) Stanford, Dan (’SALEM’S LOT) Byrd and Emilie (LOST) de Ravin are among those portraying the typical Midwestern brood, while Robert (LAND OF THE DEAD) Joy, Ezra (FIGHT CLUB) Buzzington, Billy (BLOOD RELIC) Drago and Michael Bailey (MONSTER MAN) Smith have been enrolled on the mutant side. Laura Ortiz (pictured with this writer) is Ruby, the only sympathetic member of the deviant clan.
While the predecessor’s villains mostly resembled regular human beings who’d been living in a cave for too long, there is nothing normal about the desert inhabitants of this updated version, and the actors had to go through elaborate makeup transformations, courtesy of KNB EFX. The result, Aja and his producers promise, will be a new HILLS that is bloodier, scarier and more violent than the previous edition. Look for the first magazine report in Fango #249, on sale December 6, and a full set visit in Fango #250, on sale January 24.
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