It is always hard reviewing older horror movies, as plenty of them aren’t as effective as they were back in their day. And it’s even harder to review one of “the” horror movies, that helped to define a genre, while establishing a legend such as Wes Craven, who undoubtedly became one. The Hills Have Eyes is still pretty unsettling movie, but it’s got a major pacing problem.
This is one of those weird times, where I had seen the remake (The Hills Have Eyes (2006)) first, a long time ago and I remember it shaken me a bit, as I was around 13/14 years old. Especially the caravan scene with Emilie de Ravin (who is probably the most known for her role in Lost (2004 – 2010) as Claire Littleton) stayed with me to this day, as it was disturbing, shocking, and… chilling. Even then I had an inkling this was a remake of an old, beloved horror movie and I knew someday, once I recover from the remake, I need to watch the original. It took me around 15 years, but I have finally done it (or, I have finally found it on Mubi, which ever you’d prefer ;-)).
As mentioned above, for me, this movie’s biggest flaw is (ironically) the time period this got made in. I know it used to be more common for movies to take their time, their pacing was different as you can tell instantly. But plenty of other times while watching other movies from this decade or even older, I had no issues. But this movie somehow had moments, where even though the story was interesting enough, it never pulled me in properly, so I have never felt the part of it. And that is a major problem, especially for a horror movie, as when you aren’t in the movie’s world, you can’t fully experience the horror element of the story.
Which this movie has a lot of. The Hills Have Eyes definitely has its moments and overall, is not a bad movie at all. What Wes was doing in 1977 took some balls, making people that uncomfortable. And I do applaud him for breaking certain barriers, thinking outside of the box, doing it his way. This is one of those movies I wished I could have seen around when it got released, as to experience something like this back in 1977 and on the big screen, must have been almost out of this world experience, I would imagine.
I know it is almost heresy for me to write this, but The Hills Have Eyes walked, so other movies in this genre could run, be improved upon. Take the remake of this movie, for example. I still remember it, almost 15 years after watching it and I want to re-watch it to confirm what I am about to say, but it was slightly better than the original. But it’s not because the original is bad, no. The main and only reason for the remake being slightly better, is that you can tell that the director behind it (Alexandre Aja) grew up loving horror movies and probably adored this one too. But everything’s changed since 1977 so he was allowed to go even further, to play with the well established norms of the stranded/slasher horror genre in even more sinister ways, as his movie is way more “in your face”, because he knew, what can be done to make it more terrifying. Whereas Wes was filming this film when this genre was in its early stages, and he helped to shape it.
And that is the ultimate paradox of this movie. For today’s standards, it’s a decent movie, that doesn’t pack the punch it had back in 1977. But, without this movie, without Wes, we might have never gotten where we are now, and directors like Alexandre Aja wouldn’t have known what to improve upon. I think it’s worth seeing The Hills Have Eyes, as it definitely has its moments, just make sure you don’t go in with today’s expectations of what horror “should be”. Try to enjoy it for what it is and for the fact it helped to establish Wes Craven.
That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Until next time,