Friday, February 26, 2016

Film Review: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The Hills Have Eyes (Review)
United States/1977
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Prime
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

" exhilarating sensation that is only amplified through the sense of isolation and helplessness."

A family traveling to California find themselves stranded in a Nevada desert and stalked by a family of cannibals in the hills...

The Hills Have Eyes is a straight-forward horror film. The film follows the Carter family as they travel to Nevada; this extended family includes parents Bob and Ethel, siblings Bobby and Brenda, the eldest daughter, Lynne, Lynne's husband, Doug, the couple's baby, Katy, and their two dogs. Okay, it's a fairly large family, but nothing complex. Anyway, this family head out into the desert looking for a silver mine, despite being warned of the dangers – obviously. Their car breaks down, so Bob and Doug head out to find help. Eventually, the family is attacked and the fight for survival begins. From there, the momentum shifts from slow-burn to edge-of-your-seat thriller. I'm not sure how I feel about the actual ending, though. It's not bad, really, but it is very abrupt. I was sitting there, hooked and ready for more, then it just sort of ends out of nowhere – no closure or anything. I suppose it didn't have anything else to say.

The Hills Have Eyes is a great horror film. I loved the foreboding ambiance of the movie. From beginning to end, the trepidation is evident. You can feel the dread looming around every corner – something's going to happen and you have to wait until it hits. It's an exhilarating sensation that is only amplified through the sense of isolation and helplessness. The suspense continues to build-up, too. Every scene is meticulously crafted to maximize the tension. This is not the most violent film I've ever watched, not by a long shot. However, the depictions of murder are brutal and raw. Thanks to some excellent execution, there is no need to be gratuitous. This is, of course, a horror film, so expect a handful of plot contrivances. Brenda, in particular, is one those 'convenient' characters who conveniently messes things up for the sake of the plot – she foolishly releases the dogs in two different scenes! Hold the leash tighter, Brenda!

The acting is mostly good. It can occasionally lean towards bad, but that's mostly due to some very cheesy dialogue. It occasionally has that bad 70s/80s acting. Susan Lanier, who plays Brenda, was decent, but her constant crying during the latter half of the film was obnoxious. I thought she nailed the traumatized character initially, but she quickly over-did it. Otherwise, the film is fairly standard. I don't believe I watched an HD print of this film. (I streamed it on Amazon through a Shudder subscription.) The film did not look crisp or remastered like some other classic horror films. Writer and director Wes Craven masterfully crafts a suspenseful tale of terror. There are a few holes in the writing, but the direction is superb in creating dread and tension.

Overall, The Hills Have Eyes is a great film. It's not perfect, but it truly is frightening and exciting. It packs a strong punch and constantly delivers in the horror department. Although not quite up there with The Texas Chainsaw or Black Christmas, I consider The Hills Have Eyes a classic horror film. It's certainly better than the sequel.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex.

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