Blu Ray Review: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)


The Hills Have Eyes

Image Entertainment





The Hills Have Eyes is Wes Craven’s entry into the ‘cannibal hillbilly’ sub-genre of horror, which includes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wrong Turn, and (debatably) Deliverance.  Backwoods hillbillies make for great villains.  They’re the modern world’s equivalent of savages.

Like most other films in the genre, the plot involves a group (in this case, the Carter family) on vacation in some isolated area when they become stranded (their station wagon falls victim to a trap).  They are then set upon by the cannibal hillbillies who seek to eat/rape/torture them.

One of the things I like about this movie is how completely ineffectual the Carter family men are.  The father, Bob, is a former cop.  He’s the first to be caught, and is successfully used as bait to attack the others.  The brother-in-law, Doug, fails to save his wife and baby and has to be saved himself by the cannibal family’s daughter, though to his credit, after the cannibal daughter kills her brother Mars, Doug bravely stabs Mars’ corpse.

But the real loser of the bunch is Bobby, the teenage son.  In many ways, he’s the main protagonist, as he seems to get the most screen time.  Unfortunately, most of that time is spent crying, bitching about things, and giving away all their secrets to the cannibals.  His only discernible skill is gymnastics, though he fails to make use of it.

His sister Brenda is the only Carter family member to have a good idea throughout the entire movie.  She devises a trap to kill the elder cannibal, Papa Jupiter, which she sets up while Bobby runs around whining about it, just cause it uses his mom’s dead body as bait.  What a pussy.

Actually, the MVP for the ‘good’ side is their dog Beauty, who manages to kill two of the cannibals single-pawedly.

The cannibals themselves are not the mutant monsters of more recent entries in this genre, they’re just backwoods folksy.  They dress in furs, and the mother (whom we’re told was a prostitute, though I can’t imagine a very successful one) has some kind of Native American bead work clothing.  They talk relatively normally, and are able to strategize and use technology.  I’m not sure if this makes them scarier or not.  On the one hand, they’re more believable, but on the other, they’re more relate-able (which you never really want of your monsters).

The Hills Have Eyes is a good, but not great movie.  The plot is somewhat predictable, but includes enough idiosyncrasies to keep it interesting.  The movie peaks with the night raid, and limps to the end with a day-time confrontation that isn’t particularly tense or horrific.  The characters are refreshingly weak and useless, unlike other films that turn the victims into action heroes.

The Blu Ray, from Image is watchable.  The video is probably not much of an upgrade over the DVD and looks like an old, un-remastered film print of a cheaply made movie.  Audio is DTS-HD 6.1 and PCM Mono, though it’s not really a dynamic enough soundtrack for that to matter.