And Cain went from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden (Gen 4:16).
The Hills Have Eyes has a bit of a prologue. A scavenger dressed like someone from any stock caveman flick shows up at a dusty, last gas station for scores of miles and tries to trade her stolen goods for food. The old man running the gas station will have none of it; however, it is obvious that Fred (John Steadman) and Ruby (Janus Blythe) have at least a business relationship and that Fred is terrifically frightened of her.
Enter the Carters. They are heading to California with their children and one grandchild. They stop for gas and mention wanting to go to an abandoned silver mine because it is Bob’s (Russ Grieve) and Ethel’s (Virginia Vincent) silver wedding anniversary. Fred warns them away from it and all but orders them to keep to the main road to California.
This wouldn’t be a horror film if the Carters listened, so they go down the dusty, unpaved road until, as cliché would have it, they have an accident. Here is where the fun starts. Using walkie-talkies, a group of cannibals zero in on the family who will provide for their next several meals. Some make it, some don’t: required horror movie stock.
The strange thing is that The Hills Have Eyes is good. It is a B movie, but the quality of all but part of the acting rivals that of many films of the late 70’s (1977 in this case).
A couple of decades earlier, Fred’s wife gave birth to what amounts to a monster child. When this child becomes a young man he is sent into the hills, on the west of the gas station (ok, not a perfect copy of the biblical reference, but the metaphor still works). Somehow he is able to scratch out an existence and to grow his community. There are a couple of ways to account for this, but you will either have to use your imagination here or watch the film and use your imagination there. All of the male cannibals have planetary names: Mercury, Mars, Pluto, Jupiter. I have two fairly major problems with The Hills Have Eyes and the first is the serious difficulty trying to keep track of which cannibal is which planet. It is enough to know that they are what they are as a group and their individual names are unimportant. They are genuinely gross and their behavior vis a vis the Carters is both gross and frightening (to a point, given that the movie entered the “camp” category years ago).
The other major problem is the women. Except for war movies that have no women (or women who are briefly remembered in flashback)--The Thin Red Line and Jarhead immediately come to mind—I cannot think of a film that is more gender biased than The Hills Have Eyes (however this is certainly not the intention).
Each character fits a required part in a movie of this sort; these roles are predictable and too well known to waste words on. The problem is that all the males do a very good job at playing their parts. All the women though are awful. It was as if they came to the set totally unprepared for their parts. Their expressions are blank or “horrified” but even the blankness is not convincing. One woman in particular requires that you mute the sound. Susan Lanier (Brenda Carter) screams with such a loud and shrill voice it could shatter brick; half a step higher and only dogs could hear her and their ears would likely explode. Anyone can scream, but apparently in The Hills Have Eyes not everyone can act.
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