Miscellaneous Reviews Festivals Lists Etc
#
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z
Here


web analytics

 

The Hills Have Eyes (March 8/06)

After a rash of utterly abysmal horror remakes - ie The Fog and House of Wax - The Hills Have Eyes comes off as a refreshingly brutal and thoroughly entertaining update of Wes Craven's 1977 cult classic. Filmmaker Alexandre Aja amps up the tension right from the get-go, quickly transforming the movie into that rare "reimagination" that's actually better than its predecessor.

Craven's sporadically engaging original has been transformed into something that's uniformly taut and distinctly unsettling, as Aja employs many of the same beats and plot twists but to far greater effect. The story revolves around an extended family - which includes Bob (Ted Levine) and Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan) Carter, their three children (played by Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, and Dan Byrd), son-in-law Doug Bukowski (Aaron Stanford), and granddaughter Catherine (Maisie Camilleri Preziosi) - as they find themselves under attack from a small community of mutated freaks while traveling across the country in a camper.

The Hills Have Eyes kicks off with a fantastically entertaining sequence involving a group of scientists that run afoul of the aforementioned mutated freaks, which - when coupled with the eerie opening credits sequence - lends the film an instant vibe of dread and horror. And although the majority of the film's first half is devoted to the family's efforts to extricate themselves from their increasingly precarious situation - the freaks have crippled their camper - Aja does a phenomenal job of keeping the suspense level high even during seemingly innocuous sequences.

And while it'd be easy to label the film's success as entirely Aja's doing, the superb cast clearly deserves kudos for their uniformly credible and thoroughly compelling performances. Stanford, best known for his work as Pyro in the X-Men series, is especially strong as the mild-mannered husband and father who's forced to become something far more primal as the situation starts to escalates. These are not the sort of cookie-cutter victims that are generally associated with films of this sort; Aja (along with co-writer Gregory Levasseur) effectively transforms each of these characters into fully-realized figures, to the extent that it's particularly satisfying once the survivors begin to fight back.

The Hills Have Eyes is certainly unpleasant when it needs to be, but never oppressively so (unlike the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre update, which was loathsome virtually from start to finish). Aja uses the unsettling atmosphere as a means of keeping the viewer on edge throughout the film's running time, and there's no denying that Aja has crafted a genuinely disturbing horror flick (a rarity indeed in this day and age).

out of