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The Hills Have Eyes

The Original 1977 film from Wes Craven

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What happens in the hills stays in the hills.

  • Apr 29, 2012
** out of ****

An American family, California-bound by RV and car, stop at a creepy gas station ran by a shady old man. We know that the gas station is creepy - and that the old man is shady - because the scene that comes before the arrival of the family, which involves a strange conversation between the old man and a young and ragged woman (who the old man hides in a closet when he hears the car door slam outside the establishment), tells us so. The family finds themselves in a dessert area, supposedly near the site of nuclear bomb testing, and therefore the father feels the need to do some sight-seeing. The old man tells him that this isn't such a good idea, but he fails to listen to such warnings, and so they are on their way, deeper into the dessert. But then...the car breaks down, the family is stranded, and odd indications let us know that perhaps something - or someone - is watching them.

And so, the hills do have eyes; the eyes being those of a family of psychotic cannibals, a few of them certainly mutated by the nuclear testing that was once conducted nearby. It's not until they find one of the two dogs that they've brought along with them dead, and the father burned alive, that the family starts to realize that the savages of the hills are instigating an all-out war. You can imagine what happens next. The mutants seem to have the upper hand in the battle, but the other family soon turns the tables on the villains, eventually fending for themselves successfully. Expect blood, explosions, executions, and doggie heroes.

It was an inspired idea; a tribe-like clan of cannibalistic mutants hiding out in the middle of nowhere, feeding off of all those who dare pass by the land which they call home. Writer and director Wes Craven could have done something absolutely amazing with the premise, but instead, he makes all the wrong moves in stylizing his film. He avoids being responsible for making a really bad movie by intelligently placing a few elements that we're sure to remember; the performances from the actors who portray the family of cannibals, and of the other family, genre favorite Dee Wallace. Actor Michael Berryman (who plays a character named Pluto in the "bad" family) has achieved much fame after being involved in this particular production, although mostly (it would seem) for the peculiarities in his appearance. Still, I thought he gave the best performance out of the entire film.

But alas, a few good things cannot quite outdo the bad and the mediocre. Perhaps my biggest gripe with "The Hills Have Eyes" is that the pacing is just so darned...uneven. It wants to be a typical suspense tale with themes of morality and family relations, but instead of being absorbed in the tension of specific - and well-made - scenes, I found myself feeling rather bored. I didn't care about these characters of whether they survived, and quite frankly, I would have preferred that Craven had made a considerable attempt to give the villains some decent background. Not to humanize the bastards per se; but enough to give me a goddamn good reason to give a shit. Instead, I'm stuck here waiting for the whole ordeal to be over.

Regardless of how down-right boring and poorly-paced I thought Craven's film (which was his second overall) was, there are those who seem to love it. Indeed, it might work as a nostalgia piece, and to some, even a solid horror flick on its own grounds; but for me, all I know is that it wasn't quite worth the hype. There is fantastic scenery, fantastic individual shots and cinematography, and some interesting performances (not including most of the "good" family; most members annoyed the living hell out of me); but when it comes to the suspense, it may be better than most of its kind, but that still doesn't make it good. At least not in my book. I have absolutely no problem with "The Hills Have Eyes", but at the same time I can't really recommend it. Suspense that relies on both characters and mood can be riveting at times, when properly handled; but if I'm consistently hoping that the characters exit the frame as soon as possible, there can be no human impulse. And if suspense without brains is what people consider to be suspense at all, then we're in trouble.

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May 15, 2012
The family finds themselves in a dessert area


Your gripes concerning this flick apply to all of Craven's features prior to A Nightmare on Elm Street: his every novel scenario is undermined by sloppy composition, imbecile dialogue and risibly hammy acting. By no means great films, the remakes of Hills and The Last House on the Left are exceptions to the remake trend. Both are superior to their source material, the former by dint of phenomenal production design, the latter by clever plotting that wisely deviates from its predecessor to maximize probability and suspense alike. What's more, most of those cast for both pictures are credible actors.

Michael Berryman is better enjoyed in what may be the best independent American motion picture of the '70s - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
April 30, 2012
another of those 'movies for its generation' thing. I didn't hate this and I thought it had its good moments Nice review!
April 30, 2012
"Last House on the Left" is so bad that I skipped this one. Thank you for the confirmation that I haven't missed anything and that Craven didn't do better on his sophomore effort. Well done.
More The Hills Have Eyes (1977 movi... reviews
Quick Tip by . September 24, 2010
I was surprised at how slow and low key this film plays considering its inbred, radioactive hillbilly villains. I felt that Craven could have pushed this flick way further...
review by . May 06, 2009
The Sawney Bean story as told by Wes Craven.
The Hills Have Eyes is one of the classic and essential horror films of the seventies. Whilst his first horror flick LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was a product of the late sixties (despite being made in the early seventies, HILLS HAVE EYES is a definite seventies era movie. Loosely based upon the old country tale of Sawney Bean, this updated tale is about a mutated family of inbred monsters who live off the dying and radiated deserts of the southwest.      An extended family traveling …
review by . October 24, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Plot, pacing, performances by the men      Cons: Performances by the women.      The Bottom Line: As far as horror movies go, this one is campy but still fun. The gore factor isn't that high and the story and pacing are both nearly top notch.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.      And Cain went from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, …
review by . March 10, 2006
Pros: A perfectly good flick     Cons: People eating     The Bottom Line: The hills are alive ....   with the sound of screaming ...                    Yes folks, it was horror movie weekend at the Dee house (except for Into Thin Air and that was scary enough).      Basic story   Picture this - loving family and extended family on a vacation. While …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Loosely based upon Sawney Bean and his cannibal clan.

Was submitted several times to the MPAA in order to receive an R rating.

Filmed on a budget of $230,000.

Followed by two sequels and two remakes.

When their camper breaks down in the desert on their way to California, a desperate family struggles to survive the attacks of a bizarre cannibalistic family, hungry for fresh meat and determined to terrorize the innocent vacationers. As members of the Carter clan fall prey to these inbred marauders, only a son and daughter remain to rescue their kidnapped infant and seek vengeance against the savages who have destroyed their family.
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Director: Wes Craven
Genre: Horror
Release Date: July 22, 1977
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Wes Craven
DVD Release Date: March 07, 2006
Runtime: 89 minutes
Studio: Blood Relations Co.
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