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The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

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On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Steadman ...
...
Peter Locke ...
Mercury (as Arthur King)
Russ Grieve ...
...
...
Brenda Carter (as Susan Lanier)
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Brenda Marinoff ...
...
Martin Speer ...
James Whitworth ...
...
Lance Gordon ...
Cordy Clark ...
Flora ...
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Storyline

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 <marekp@interlog.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Just keep telling yourself it's only a film...It's only a film... See more »

Genres:

Horror | Thriller

Certificate:

X | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

22 July 1977 (USA)  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$230,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The dead dog used as a stand-in for the family's slaughtered Alsatian 'Beauty', widely believed to be a dummy dog, was in fact a real (already dead) dog that director Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke had bought from the county sheriff's department. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Pluto: [Beast pushed Mercury off a cliff, killing him. Pluto heard the fall and stops walking] I thought I heard rocks falling or something.
Mars: You got rocks in your head, asshole! Keep walking!
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
It's films like this that make us remind ourselves to "sleep tight" at night
8 October 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The one thing that Hills Have Eyes fans, I feel, find difficult to admit, no matter how great of a film they think Wes Craven's low-key, no-budget horror masterwork is, is that it's undoubtedly a film riding the coattails on the popularity of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Upon the release of Tobe Hooper's essential horror film that has become a genre gold-standard, nearly every film company - even ones that were created simply for this purpose - were jumping at the opportunity to hire directors, scour the neverending sea of casting calls and auditions, and looking for affordable effects artists in order to make a film that would be a frightening little flick people could catch on a Friday night.

One of those directors was Wes Craven, who would later go on to create Freddy Kruger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, one of the most well-received and highly regarded horror franchises ever made. Before that, however, Craven was a fairly inconsistent, unpredictable man in the director's chair, churning out as many winners as he did films like his pornographic venture Angela: The Fireworks Woman and eventually The Hills Have Eyes II. However, the original Hills Have Eyes is something to marvel at, much of its quality stemming from its universal plausibility and rawness. This is a film that personifies horror and uncertainty with a biting and unforgivable sense of dread that you can feel from the start.

The plot isn't even worth digging into; a well-off suburban family embarks on a road-trip in their four-door, equipped with a full-size trailer, only to break down deep in the Nevadan desert and be the targets of animalistic savages that lurk in the mountainous parts of the desert. One of the savages is known as "Pluto," played by horror legend Michal Berryman, most notable for his facial deformities and distinctive look, who acts almost feral in his attempt to be the fearless do-boy of the group. The savages stalk and harass the family, making use of their insufficient firearms and easily spooked nature, even going as far as to attacking one of the young girls and leaving her a panicked wreck for much of the film.

Watching it in present day, appropriately during the month of October, The Hills Have Eyes still has the ability to shock to the core, specifically in the way it executes its more suspenseful sequences. These are where the film's lower budget and small scale work in its favor. Consider the screams, the bloodshed, and the moments of sheer terror interjected in the long-term sequences of suspense in this film; all of these little quirks are elevated by naturalism. The screams heard by the characters rip through the film's audio-track, almost distorting every sound and hitting the center of your eardrum in a violent manner as if it's stabbing it in an unrelenting fashion. The bloodshed of the film isn't a bloodbath, but a sporadic showcase of the film's ability to make its gorier scenes as realistic and unsettling as the screams we so frequently hear.

Finally, there's Craven's pacing and execution, which turn out to be successful almost all the way through. Craven is a fan of quiet, natural buildup; the kind that relies on the murmur of the water, the wind in the trees, and the chirping of crickets in order to create an environment that's equal parts believable and unnerving. Here, Craven builds slowly but surely, assuring that the execution is seamless and that nothing moves too fast, not even the scenes we've been waiting for since the start of the film. It's all even-handed and balanced and pleasantly so.

The Hills Have Eyes lacks any kind of form or polish and that's precisely what makes it the movie that it is. Horror films don't need aesthetics that run studios millions of dollars, nor do they need proved greats as headliners or complex props and setpieces. The most memorable films are the ones conducted on that realistic, natural scale that leave us sleeping with one eye open and checking under our beds and blankets before we turn out the light. These are the films that personify the unknown and the elements of fear in a way that makes us remind ourselves to "sleep tight" at night.

Starring: Martin Speer, Michael Berryman, Virginia Vincent, Dee Wallace, Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Lance Gordon, and Russ Grieve. Directed by: Wes Craven.


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