A family going to California accidentally goes through an Air Testing range closed to the public. They crash and are stranded in a desert. They are being stalked by a group of people, which have not emerged into modern times. Written by
Paul Popiel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wes Craven's original title for the film was 'Blood Relations'. Producer Peter Locke however disliked the title. Numerous titles were then considered and the film tested best under the title 'The Hills Have Eyes', though Craven himself initially disliked the title. See more »
(at around 45 mins) One brief nighttime shot of "Bobby" has been flipped: a cut on the right side of his face can be seen on the left hand side. See more »
Craven's first good movie is an integral part of the horror/grind-house/exploitation flicks of the 70's
Made in a budget close to 300 to 400 thousand dollars (give or take a dollar), and shot in just several days in the desert with limited crew and actors, The Hills Have Eyes isn't really a stylistic masterpiece under such limitations like its twice removed cousin Texas Chain Saw Massacre (then again Wes Craven didn't have the visionary chops of Tobe Hooper). However watching it, even in the wee hours of 3 AM in the morning on TV, it was still quite the little entertaining good versus evil flick. The remake of it, which will be known to more perhaps than Craven's original (or more seen), has the bucks to claim its lot of gore and expanded production design. But with this film, we get just the bare bones, so to speak, of a mutant cannibal film, where a family of six (with two dogs aptly named Beauty and Beast, ho-ho), get railed off the road in the middle of a desert, and a creeping sense of doom as the night rolls around.
Craven puts together a cast of relative unknowns, but at the same time casts to type extremely well, with all of the family members (particularly the elder naive mother and bitter father) just right, and the mutant family (featuring the welcoming presence of Michael Berryman) with their names akin to planets, quite terrifying as well. There isn't much to their work, but there shouldn't be. This is the kind of film where you want the situation to just do what it can, and Craven doesn't get in the way save for a few tongue-in-cheek moments and some spots of gore. The moments of violence actually become somewhat more graphic than expected just by how fast they go or what isn't shown (apparently there's a X-rated cut that's out of existence). What's interesting too is how there's a little- not much but some- background on these mutant characters, the ties that bind this group of hungry maniacs together, with one perhaps not as twisted and remorseless as the others.
As I said, if you're looking for Craven's masterpiece you might not find it, as there are moments where the story and dialog kind of crack in their place. But I was in a nice grip of excitement as the story unraveled into its last half hour or so, with a few twists that, to me, rival over those in the new Aja remake. It's a gritty, strangely amusing shoe-string production that knows what it is and is just happy to be shown somewhere. At the least, it shows Craven growing a bit from his horrid days of Last House on the Left, pointing to his fresher ground of Nightmare on Elm Street. This is the kind of movie that every horror or 1970's drive-in fan should see once, and has rightfully had a place as a cult film for decades now. 7.5/10
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