If these hills only had eyes, it would be one thing but parents should know that they also have mutants wielding pickaxes which results in a disturbingly graphic movie not suitable for sensitive audiences of any age or species.
Even some horror movie fans might be put off by this graphically violent flick about a mutant band of robbing and raping cannibals that make short work of a vacationing family until they push the family dog and the self-important son-in-law too far and end up in a bloodbath. French director Alexandre Aja, who made last year’s ambitious but disappointing “High Tension”, turns out a solid if not outstanding update of Wes Craven’s “The Hills have Eyes” from 1977, which taught the world that family vacations are just not safe.
The fairly disagreeable Carter family, comprising husband, wife, three children, son-in-law, grandchild and two dogs, are driving out to the coast through the desert to celebrate the senior Carters’ twenty-fifth anniversary. When a conflicted gas station owner tells them about a shortcut to the highway, the bickering family set out across the rocky desert and into a trap. With the truck totaled and the sun setting, the family realizes that they are not alone in the hills and that the others out there give new meaning to the phrase “playing with your food.”
Aja expends little effort on altering the script of the original but instead adds in marginally better actors, a few heavy handed political asides, a ponderous explanation, a lot more explicit violence and a slightly jaunty sensibility that seems intended to pass for humor. This is not a psychological thriller – this is a gore fest, so audiences should not be surprised when supposedly sensible characters act irrationally, such as going off alone, calling out in the dark and not warning others that the family dog has been disemboweled. In fact, the most sensible and selfless behavior of all is demonstrated by a mutant girl and a German Sheppard, which means that many audiences will not care much who ultimately survives the escalating body count.
For slasher fans, Aja’s lush style and loyalty to the original will make this a worthy wander but for all others be warned, do not enter them there hills.
Parents should know that this is a graphically violent horror movie with constant peril and the violent deaths of almost all on-screen characters. Most of a family is slaughtered and bodies are eaten onscreen. Even fans of the original might be disturbed by the extremely graphic gore and the rape scene. Parents should know that a baby is taken away to be eaten, that a dog is disemboweled and consumed, that characters are killed onscreen in a range of explicit deaths, many involving pickaxes, and that female characters are subjected to sexual assaults. Characters swear, smoke and refer to marijuana use. Political jibes and name-calling highlight friction between family members.
Families who see this movie might talk about the nuclear testing in the Southwest, which is the back story for the movie and for the rage of many of the characters. Why might the juxtaposition of the 1950’s style family homes and mannequins be an effective horror technique? How does the desert play a part in the story?
Families who are interested in the inspiration for this movie, might like to read more about the legend of Alexander “Sawney” Bean, who supposedly was a Scotsman married to a witch living in the late 1300’s as the head of a cave-dwelling family which survived by robbing English travelers and eating their corpses. The legend is considered by many a boogeyman tale about the Scots, who were in conflict with the English at the time, but generations have been chilled by this bloody story, described in detail down to King James’ manhunt and the ensuing executions of the Bean family.
For families looking for movies with similar thrills and kills, the 1977 original “The Hills have Eyes” helped launch Wes Craven’s fame as a horror-director. Both versions of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” feature people going off the beaten path and being hunted down by a terrifying family.
Thanks to guest critic AME.