The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Directed By: Wes Craven
Starring: Janus Blythe, Russ Grieve, Virginia Vincent, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier, Dee Wallace-Stone, James Whitworth, Michael Berryman
Sub-genre: Survival, Cannibals
For the younger generation, Wes Craven is the man that brought us Freddy Krueger, Scream and a slate of recent subpar horror genre entries. Wes Craven’s directorial career actually started with two very gritty, very brutal movies; The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. Both have been remade since the 1970’s, and although each remake has its merits, I much prefer the originals. Craven would make a sequel in 85, which he regretted, and even disowned. It’s easy to understand why if you have ever suffered your way through it.
We get an early glimpse of the antagonists as an old man who owns a gas station interacts with Ruby, a rather tattered looking girl who wants to trade some “treasures” for food. We soon find out that Ruby is a member of a family that lives in the hills. The conversation is broken up by a family pulling into the gas station on their way to California. As a side trip, they are looking for a silver mine. Fred, the old man, pleads with them to stay on the main road.
Being a horror flick, the family ignores Fred, and later wrecks their car, leaving them stranded in the middle of the desert, admidst the hills, where we know Ruby and her family lives. Bob, the father, decides to walk back to the gas station for help while Doug, the son-in-law heads the other direction. We quickly learn that the family is being watched and a nefarious plan is being hatched for that night. The family wants the baby, and not to raise as one of their own. They want the baby for dinner! Why they would want a baby to eat, and not any of the other family members is beyond me, perhaps it is the meat of choice for Hillbilly Cannibals out there.
The family members, named after Roman Gods (Mercury, Pluto, Mars and Papa Jupiter) are terrifying. Kudos to the makeup and costume departments and a special mention to Michael Berryman, you are one scary looking man.
The Hills Have Eyes plays on your fear of hoplessness. There doesn’t seem to be anything the family can do, as they are stranded in a strange place with no chance of rescue and being picked off by a foe that knows the area. This fear is escalated when the baby is stolen, especially to those of us that are parents.
Compared to Last House, The Hills Have Eyes isn’t quit as brutal, but it still ranks up there. It has the same look and feel as Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, that gritty 70s feel that makes you feel like you are at a drive in or some seedy theatre on 42nd Street. Fans of 70s horror cinema should check this one out. Skip the sequel, but give the Aja remake a shot as well.