Wes Craven began his film career in 1971 co-directing Together, a soft core documentary with Sean S. Cunningham. Cunningham would later go on to produce and direct the original Friday The 13th in 1980. Craven made his feature film debut with the gruesome Last House On The Left, beginning a lasting affair with the horror genre. Craven then gained some morbid inspiration for his next film, The Hills Have Eyes.
The Hills Have Eyes is loosely based on the Scottish legend of the Sawney Beane family. They were a clan of cave dwelling cannibals, consisting of a wife, six daughters and eight sons. Later came eighteen grandsons and fourteen granddaughters, all products of incest. In the early fourteen hundreds they robbed, murdered and devoured anyone that passed through their area in the East Lothian County. Their crimes continued for twenty five years until they were hunted down, captured and taken to Edinburgh. It was here that the family were all horrifically tortured and later executed.
Craven's loose adaptation of the legend takes place in modern day America. The Carter family are a typical American family making their way through the desert, enroute to California. They are Bob and Ethel Carter (Russ Grieve and Virginia Vincent) together with their adult children, Bobby (Robert Houston), Brenda (Susan Lanier), Lynne (Dee Wallace-Stone), her husband Doug (Martin Speer) and their baby daughter.
The family stops for fuel at a run down service station, run by a nervous old man, Fred (John Steadman). Fred is exceptionally anxious about something and is in the process of abandoning his business when they pull in. He tells the Carter family to stay on the main road and not to visit the old abandoned silver mine, as they had planned to do.
Of course, the Carters don't take Fred's advice and end up running off the road. With the added weight of their caravan, the rear axle on the car snaps and leaves the family isolated and vulnerable in the barren landscape.
As the family embark on an action plan to get help, they are totally unaware that the nearby hills have eyes. The stranded travellers are being watched by a family of savage outcasts who have an agenda of extreme violence and cannibalism.
This tribe of rouges is led by the imposing father, Jupiter (James Whitworth). Mars (Lance Gordon) and Pluto (Michael Berryman) are the twisted and evil sons, hell-bent on causing mayhem and death. The adult daughter of the clan is the only shining light amongst them. Ruby (Janus Blythe) sees the evil and despair of living with the family and plans to escape. The film's producer, Peter Locke (credited as Arthur King), plays the small role of Mercury, another of the clan's evil offspring.
The horror of the situation is soon apparent to the Carters as the primal fury of the clan is unleashed upon them. But this average family from suburbia can only take so much and plan their fight back. However, their fight for survival will require them to transform their homely personas into that of their attackers and use the same primitive cunning and savage violence to defeat them.
We live in an era where seemingly no popular film from the past can escape the dreaded Hollywood re-make. A new film version of the The Hills Have Eyes is due for cinema release in March 2006. This new version is directed by Alexandre Aja, with Wes Craven and Peter Locke thankfully taking on roles as Producers.
Wes Craven wrote and directed a sequel to The Hills Have Eyes in 1985, however The Hills Have Eyes - Part 2 failed to gain an enthusiastic audience and is far superior to the recent remake. 7/10
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