The Hills Have Eyes (1977) - Plot Summary Poster


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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.

  • 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.

  • While traveling in a trailer through the desert to California, the retired detective Big Bob Carter stops in an isolated gas station with his family for fueling and rest. When they leave the gas station, the owner advises Bob to stay in the main road. However, the stubborn driver takes a shortcut through a nuclear testing site and wrecks his station wagon. With the family stranded in the middle of nowhere, Bob and Doug walk on the road trying to find some help. Bob is captured by an insane and sadistic member of a deranged evil family that lives nearby the spot. Later that night the Carter family is attacked by a group of psychotic cannibal criminals. Absolutely trapped by the murderers, they have to fight to survive.

  • Big Bob and Ethel Carter, their son Bobby, daughters Lynne and Brenda, Lynne's husband Doug and their baby granddaughter are on their way to California. Big Bob wants to visit an old silver mine once owned by his family. When they stop for gas at a remote station, Fred the owner warns them about going off the beaten tack telling them it's way too dangerous. Big Bob is stubborn and pushes on but when the car breaks down, they soon realize they have to deal with cannibalistic mutants living in the nearby mountains. Few will survive.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Along an isolated stretch of road in the U.S. desert stands Fred's Oasis, a dilapidated gas station, where the curmudgeonly owner is packing his belongings into a pickup truck. Fred is startled by the appearance of a ragged and somewhat feral young woman named Ruby. She tells Fred that "we're hungry" and offers to trade items that were stolen from an Air Force PX. Fred warns her to be careful, as local authorities are investigating the robbery. Realizing that Fred is planning to leave, Ruby pleads with him to take her along, but he laughs unkindly and sneers that she could never pass for "regular folk." Fred also tells Ruby that her father, Jupiter, would kill her if he knew of her plans. Ruby retorts that Jupiter would do the same to Fred.

    They are interrupted by a voice outside - possibly a state trooper, who would surely arrest Ruby. The girl hides in a back room while Fred investigates. He is relieved to instead find a family wanting service: "Big Bob" Carter, a Cleveland police officer who retired early because of heart trouble; his wife Ethel; their three grown children, Lynne, Bobby and Brenda; Lynne's husband, Doug; and Lynne and Doug's infant daughter, Katy. The entourage also includes two German Shepherds named Beauty and The Beast.

    The Carters are traveling (in a station wagon and trailer) to Los Angeles, but are making a detour to visit a local silver mine -- a gift for Bob and Ethel's 25th wedding anniversary the following day. They ask Fred for directions, but he urges the family to stay on the main road, assuring them that the silver is long gone and that the Air Force uses the surrounding desert as a gunnery range.

    Meanwhile, a sinister figure (Mercury) wearing a feathered headdress stealthily approaches the gas station. While Fred is pumping gas for the Carters, Doug enters the building and wanders into the room where Ruby was hiding - she is nowhere to be found, but Doug notices a broken window with fresh blood on the glass. Then he overhears Ruby pleading with Mercury and telling him that "Grandpa Fred" is running away. No sooner have the Carters driven off, than Fred's pickup truck explodes - leaving him with no way to escape. "There'll be hell to pay now!" he intones fearfully.

    Determined to find the silver mine, Bob veers off the main road and gets lost. When he realizes that he and his family have blundered into an Air Force nuclear testing site, he panics and crashes the station wagon, breaking an axle. The family is now stranded. They join together to ask God to watch over them, and then Bob and Doug head off in opposite directions on foot. Meanwhile, they are being watched from afar by Jupiter's clan.

    As the rest of the family sits down for lunch, Beauty suddenly races away. Bobby chases her into the hills; after hearing the dog cry out, he discovers her disemboweled body. Bobby runs away in terror, but trips and loses consciousness.

    Night falls. While waiting for Doug and Bobby to return, the women try to radio for help, and are alarmed to hear heavy breathing on the other end. Unexpectedly Bobby emerges from the darkness and tells everyone that he didn't find Beauty. Not long after, he discovers that The Beast has broken his chain and run off. Then Doug returns, explaining that he wasn't able to find help.

    Bob finally reaches Fred's gas station, which appears to be deserted. Suddenly a gunshot rings out. Bob fires back, then finds Fred attempting to hang himself. Bob stops him and demands an explanation. Decades earlier, Fred was happily married, with a young daughter and another child on the way. However, the second baby turned out to be a monstrous, mutant son (Jupiter) who grew up terrorizing the family. When the boy burned down the family's house and killed his own sister, Fred attacked him with a tire iron, then left him to die in the desert. However, Jupiter survived, kidnapped a prostitute, and raised "a passel of wild kids" with her.

    Suddenly Jupiter crashes in through a window and bludgeons Fred to death with a crowbar. Bob tries to make his way back to his family, but he collapses in exhaustion - and is at the mercy of Jupiter.

    Meanwhile, Ruby is being held in chains as punishment for trying to run away. She is eating Beauty's remains, but loses her appetite when she hears a dog howling and assumes that it is Beauty's ghost. In actuality it is The Beast, lurking nearby.

    As the Carters prepare to bed down for the night, Bobby tries to convince Doug and Lynne not to sleep outside in the station wagon. Doug promises to go looking for Bob if he hasn't returned by 11:00. Ethel and Brenda go to bed in the trailer, with Katy in her crib and Bobby keeping vigil nearby. Outside, Jupiter's clan closes in on the Carters: while listening to Doug and Lynne make love, Jupiter's bald-headed son Pluto siphons gas from the station wagon. Then Bobby hears barking and goes outside, thinking that it's The Beast; in fact, another of Jupiter's sons - Mars - is making the sound in order to lure Bobby away from the trailer. Confused and alarmed, Bobby returns to the trailer and finds it locked. Inside, Pluto is ransacking the trailer for things to steal, but he becomes distracted when he notices Brenda asleep.

    Bobby interrupts Doug and Lynne to ask for keys to the trailer, but then breaks down and admits that Beauty was murdered. Suddenly there is a tremendous explosion in the distance, followed by the sound of Bob yelling in agony - the man has been impaled on a cactus and set on fire by Jupiter. Ethel hears her husband's screams and rushes outside to help him, failing to notice that Pluto is holding Brenda captive in her bed.

    As Ethel, Lynne, Bobby, and Doug rush to Bob's aid, Mars invades the trailer and interrupts Pluto in the act of raping Brenda. Mars pulls Pluto away and assaults the young woman himself. Meanwhile, Doug manages to extinguish the fire, but Bob dies.

    Lynne leads the hysterical Ethel back to the trailer, just as Mars tries to make off with Katy. A violent struggle ensues and Lynne manages to stab him in the thigh, but Mars shoots both women and he and Pluto escape with Katy. Lynne dies immediately.

    When Mars and Pluto return to their lair with the baby in tow, their food-deprived family excitedly makes plans for a Thanksgiving feast. However, Mercury is killed when The Beast pushes him from a cliff. The dog carries Mercury's walkie-talkie back to Bobby and Doug, who overhear the father vow to avenge his son's death.

    Ethel lasts through the night, but dies the following day. While Bobby and Brenda stay behind and try to radio for help, Doug and The Beast venture into the hills to rescue Katy. At the same time, Jupiter and Pluto devise a plan to ambush the trailer; when they are briefly separated, The Beast attacks and kills Pluto. Enraged, Jupiter radios Mars - forced to stay behind because of his wounded leg - and orders him to kill Katy. However, Ruby tricks Mars and runs away with the baby. She and Doug join forces and flee, with Mars in hot pursuit.

    Anticipating another attack, Bobby and Brenda use Ethel's corpse as a decoy in an elaborate booby trap. The attempt fails - but as Jupiter approaches, they quickly devise another trap that causes the trailer to explode when he opens the door. Amazingly, Jupiter survives and leaps from the burning rubble, but Brenda attacks him with a hatchet and Bobby finishes him off with two gunshots.

    In the hills, Ruby hides with Katy while Mars pursues Doug. However, Mars abruptly changes course when he realizes that Katy is nearby; he is determined to kill her, but Doug goes after him and the two men become locked in a death struggle. Ruby comes to the rescue by catching a rattlesnake and forcing it to bite Mars; she weeps over her brother's body while Doug stabs him to death.

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