Thursday, September 3, 2015

Remembering Wes Craven: "The Hills Have Eyes" Review

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 106 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Running time:  89 minutes (1 hour, 29 minutes)
PRODUCER:  Peter Locke
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Eric Saarinen (D.o.P.)
COMPOSER:  Don Peake


Starring:  Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve, Virginia Vincent, John Steadman, James Whitmore, Lance Gordon, Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Cordy Clark, Brenda Marinoff, Peter Locke, and Flora

The Hills Have Eyes is a 1977 exploitation and horror film written, edited, and directed by Wes Craven.  The film follows a California-bound family that has the misfortune of having car trouble in an area closed to the public and inhabited by violent savages.

Big Bob Carter (Russ Grieve) and his wife, Ethel (Virginia Vincent), are taking their children, son-in-law, and baby granddaughter to California when they accidentally go through an Air Force testing range.  They crash their car and trailer and are stranded in the desert.  Later that night, as the family looks for help, a cannibalistic clan attacks the family.  One by one, the clan picks off family members until the inbred marauders have left only half the family alive.  It’s up to the remaining members to fight back, rescue the kidnapped infant, and seek vengeance against their savage attackers.

A low budget 70’s horror film by horror master, director Wes Craven, The Hills Have Eyes helped Craven’s then growing reputation as a maker of fright flicks, especially coming on the heels of Last House on the Left.  The monsters really aren’t supernatural monsters, but they’re like the killers in Last House – savage humans living beyond even the farthest boundaries of civilization.   They are such outcasts that even domestic pets have a higher place in society than they do.

Forget the assumptions about Craven as a horror filmmaker.  The Hills Have Eyes is also a dramatic thriller about people fighting for their survival, even if that fight means the brutal deaths of their antagonists.  The Hills Have Eyes isn’t a great film, but it has its moments.  And like the best thrillers and horror films, The Hills Have Eyes is unsettling, frank, raw, and unrefined.  It’s not among Craven’s best work, but deserves to be seen as part of his larger body of filmmaking.  The Hills Have Eyes is a must see for true horror fans, and Michael Berryman as Pluto has become an iconic image in the horror film genre.

5 of 10

Revised: Monday, August 31, 2015

The text is copyright © 2015 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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