So I’m going to end this month on a film Wes Craven Produced, but didn’t write or direct. Those being handled by Grégory Levasseur, who along with Alexandre Aja wrote the script with Alexandre Aja also directing. Now my opinions are a little split here, as I feel this updated version does a better with the sets, violence and the desolate atmosphere. But beyond that, there is no improvement of source material and in a few areas is actually worse. The Hills Have Eyes follows the original script so closely I’m surprised that Craven isn’t given a writing credit as incredibly little has changed. To the point where this remake feels incredibly unnecessary and I fear that just because it’s the most recent, it will pull viewers away from the original. Which I will argue is superior if for no other reason is, it was actually telling an original story, rather than just rehashing one half assedly.
Once again we are following the Carters, Big Bob (Ted Levine), his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), their children, Bobby (Dan Byrd), Brenda (Emilie de Ravin), and Lynn (Vinessa Shaw), along with her husband Doug (Aaron Stanford) and their baby daughter Katy (Maisie Camillleri Prezoisi). The Carters are on their way to California, for Big Bob’s and Ethel’s silver anniversary. They stop at a gas station owned by Jeb (Tom Bower) to gas up, when their dog Beauty gets away Lynn follows and finds her in the back room of the gas station. Inside, she finds a purse full of money and jewelry, trade taken by Jeb from the people who live in the hills, brought to him by Ruby (Laura Ortiz). Jeb finds her in the back room and she quickly leaves, but Jeb notices that she’s seen the purse. So Jeb tells Big Bob of a short cut, that will take him out into the desert. Out in the desert the families truck tires are punctured, causing them to wreck. After surveying the damage Big Bob decides to hike back the way they came, while Doug is hike off ahead. While Big Bob and Doug are away, Beauty runs off and Bobby chases after her. When he finally catches up, Beauty’s been killed and gutted. Bobby runs back to the camper. But trips, falls into a small ravine and is knocked unconscious. When Big Bob reaches the gas station he finds the purse along with numerous clippings and realizes he and his family were sent into danger by Jeb. Big Bob finds Jeb outside who commits suicide in-front of him, before he’s attacked by Jupiter (Billy Drago). Big Bob is then dragged off into the mines by Lizard (Robert Joy) and Pluto (Michael Bailey Smith). Doug on his end finds a giant crater filled with seemingly abandoned cars. Bobby awakes in the desert and returns to the camper, but doesn’t tell anyone about Beauty. After Doug’s return, the family see’s Big Bob set aflame in the desert and rush to save him, to no avail. While they’re out trying to save Big Bob, Lizard rapes Brenda while Pluto smashes and loots the trailer. When Lynn and Ethel return to get supplies to help Big Bob, Lynn is molested by Lizard, who’s holding her baby hostage. But he’s wounded when Ethel comes in diverting his attention, allowing Lynn an opportunity to attack. This results in both women being killed. Lizard and Pluto flee into the night before the men can return with Lizard vowing to come back for Brenda. Now with his baby taken Doug is forced to follow the mutants into the hills to find his baby, while Brenda and Bobby try to think of a way to save themselves from the mutants return…
So, as I said the film is so close to the original I don’t see why Wes Craven felt it was needed. With the only improvements being the amped up violence and Ted Levine as Big Bob. The changing of Jupiter’s family into mutants caused by radioactive fallout was a nice touch, but is never explored enough for it to be anything more than a gimmick to make them into monsters. In fact, Jupiter and his brood are less developed in this film than they were in the original. Which is kind of criminal as this version runs about fifteen minutes longer.
The sets are vastly improved though, and the inclusion of the old mining town was a great idea. It works beautifully for the backdrop to Doug’s descent into savagery to save his daughter as he fights back against the mutants, with his battle with Pluto being particularly savage and the highlight of the film. The mannequins add a great touch of eerie emptiness that invokes a very chilling effect. But the atmosphere only lasts long enough for Alexandre Aja to throw in some CGI mutant children and the fight scenes, abandoning the atmosphere and tension for revulsion.
Final thoughts, this version is ok. I like it better than the original but not by much and only on the shoulders of Ted Lavine. Other than Ted Lavine, I prefer the cast of the original 1977 cult classic and can’t see this remake ever attaining that kind of status. But, I’ve been wrong before. 6/10