Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Hills Have Eyes

Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Aaron Stanford, Dan Byrd, Emilie de Ravin, Vinessa Shaw, Kathleen Quinlin, Ted Devine
Running Time: 107 min.

Rating: R

*1/2 (out of ****)

The Hills Have Eyes is a complete waste of time. It calls itself a horror film yet there isn't a single scare to be found and it's not suspenseful in the least. It's just gory and disgusting. I haven't seen the original 1977 Wes Craven film on which this is based but it has to be better than this. It just has to be. The only thing that scared me about the movie was that Wes Craven, a master of suspense and horror (although he has been slipping lately) would actually have his name on this trash as a producer.

The entire film is an exercise in gratuitous violence with the antagonists having no clear personalities or motivations, but I know that's digging too deep. Looked at for what it is, a modern day slasher film, it's still a failure. If anything, it's just a cheap rip-off of the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which I actually enjoyed. That movie built suspense and was terrifying at times. Plus, it had Jessica Biel. This has nothing. We've seen movies like this executed far better so there's no reason to fall for an expensive knock-off.

What there is of a plot concerns a family heading to San Diego for a vacation in their RV, which soon becomes stranded in the middle of the desert. We have Bob Carter (Ted Devine) his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlin), teenage kids Bobby( Dan Byrd), Brenda (Lost's Emilie de Ravin), and oldest daughter Lynne ( (Vinessa Shaw) who brought along husband Doug (Tadpole's Aaron Stanford) and their newborn baby. I wonder what will happen to the baby. All of the characters are ridiculous stereotypes such as the gun-toting right wing tough guy dad and the rebellious teenage daughter, which is fine if any of them were the least bit enjoyable to watch or likable. Instead they argue with each other for the entire insufferable first half hour of the film. The teenage daughter would rather be in Cancun. Dad hates his son-in-law because he's a liberal. We could go on and on.

I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that many of these characters die, and they die in disgusting, brutal ways at the hands of miners who were deformed as a result of government nuclear testing done in the 1950's. One of the most insulting things about the movie is this touch, which was a pathetic attempt to humanize the cannibals and add political undertones to the story.

These cannibals look exactly like what they are: Actors who stepped off a Hollywood backlot after hours in the make-up chair. The only nice things that can be said about this film are that it's well shot and there are some resonably good action scenes in the final act. While watching this film I came to a realization about modern horror movies. For whatever reason, there's this propensity to show everything and use the best special effects imaginable. It's as if the filmmakers have learned nothing from the success of low budget 70's horror films and movies like The Blair Witch Project from 1999. It's what you don't show, not what you do that makes a horror movie. Just ask Steven Spielberg. He'll tell you how much worse Jaws would have been if the shark actually worked all the time.

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