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The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Eyes – 1977
The lucky ones died first…
Wes Craven

Wes Craven

Peter Locke producer
Kurt Tarvis segment producer

Susan Lanier – Brenda Carter
Robert Houston – Bobby Carter
Martin Speer – Doug Wood
Dee Wallace-Stone – Lynne Wood (as Dee Wallace)
Russ Grieve – Big Bob Carter
John Steadman – Fred
James Whitworth – Jupiter
Virginia Vincent – Ethel Carter
Lance Gordon – Mars
Michael Berryman – Pluto
Janus Blythe – Ruby
Cordy Clark – Mama
Brenda Marinoff – Katy
Peter Locke – Mercury (as Arthur King)
Flora – Beauty
Striker – The Beast

Review by Sven Soetemans

Raw, atmospheric…but overall unsatisfying,
The second film directed by Wes Craven is a lot less impressive as his debut, the notorious Last House on the Left. But Craven can’t really be blamed for that because he obviously was a lot more careful when he wrote the script for The Hills have Eyes. Last House on the Left almost destroyed his career before it even begun and the shocking character of that movie made him pretty hated among critics and producers. Craven obviously kept that in mind while working on the Hills have Eyes and so, the villains are a lot less “human” and it doesn’t at all contain perverse -or even erotic – sequences.

Especially the character-building in The Hills have Eyes is a bit of a letdown, according to me. The villains are supposed to be a bunch of savage and cruel madmen, but they look pretty organised to me and they’re overall rather ‘normal’. The protagonists of the film – the entire Carter family – fail to impress. As a viewer, you never feel connected with them and you don’t really care whether they’ll make it or not. Michael Berryman really became the icon of the film and that is well-deserved. Due to his naturally inherited disease, he looks spooky and primitive. Casting him for the role of Pluto really was a brilliant idea. Other positive aspects of the film include the terrific use of settings and locations, the solid directing by Craven and the raw character of the film. Craven uses the hot and hopeless desert as a powerful tool of suspense and atmosphere and I guess that’s the most perfect element in the entire movie. Even though I think The Hills have Eyes doesn’t belong to the absolute top of horror, it’s Craven’s second best film without a doubt. I’m not a fan of his modern work and I truly loath Scream.

The Hills have Eyes recently received a special double-disc DVD edition which is a real treat for the fans. It contains fascinating commentary tracks by Craven himself and producer Locke. Besides that, the extra disc contains a documentary about the greatest directors in the genre in which they express their love and motivations towards horror. It’s called the American Nightmare and I certainly recommend giving that a look as well.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Review by Wayne Malin

Stupid and unpleasant
An all American family is driving through the desert to California. They consist of a mother, a father, a daughter, a son, and a married daughter with her husband and their baby. Unfortunately their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. And there’s a family of mutants living in the hills nearby. And they’re hungry and night is falling…

Wes Craven’s follow up to “Last House on the Left” is better than that…but that’s faint praise. It’s not as gory or sick but still hard to sit through. It was made with low production values…and it shows. The “special” effects are lousy and the makeup is more silly than scary. Also most of the acting is horrid (even by Dee Wallace). In a way that’s good…when people start getting killed and things get real desperate a good cast might have made this too depressing to watch. Also it contains no ending–it just sort of stops. There’s no resolution to the main problem.

On the plus side–it IS well-directed by Craven who makes good use of music, location and sounds. And there are three good performances by Janus Blythe (Rudy), Jupiter (James Whitworth) and Susan Lanier (her hysterics looked WAY too realistic). And the attacks are brutal and bloody (but not as bad by today’s standards).

This was a huge drive-in hit in 1977. A typical family being attacked sent shock waves out all over. It hasn’t aged well at all. It’s still considered a horror classic but I don’t see why. It’s really not that good or scary–just disgusting. I also HATE it when little babies are put in danger. I’m giving this a 5.

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70s Films

A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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