Back when I was a kid I distinctly remember watching The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. I loved A Nightmare on Elm Street and for some reason my folks were ok with me renting Wes Craven movies. I remember being grossed out by The Last House on the Left and frankly bored by The Hills Have Eyes. Neither film looked very good on VHS and it was then that I figured I just didn’t like movies from the 70’s. Since then of course my opinion of 70’s cinema has changed dramatically but my opinion of Craven’s early work remained the same. I hadn’t revisited The Hills Have Eyes since my initial viewing back in the VHS era until now.
The Hills Have Eyes is about a vacationing family on their way out west. They stumble across an old highway out in the middle of the desert, totally isolated from civilization. Their car breaks down and now they’re stuck. What they don’t know is that there is a tribe of savage humans, the patriarch being the deformed and discarded spawn of a loving family, who have no food and will do anything to get it. Now the family has to find a way to defeat the band of killers before they become dinner.
This movie is grim. Shot on what looks like 16mm under the blazing desert son, The Hills Have Eyes is a rough film. It has much more in common with The Last House on the Left then it does A Nightmare on Elm Street. It isn’t nearly as disgusting as Last House but it also isn’t as much fun as Nightmare. The family is terrorized by the group of killers, this i knew was the basic plot, but i was expecting more cat and mouse and less overt nastiness. The film set out to be frightening and cruel and achieves it’s goal. It isn’t a movie i’d throw on for fun or for a group of friends. I’d throw it on when i wanted to watch something abrasive and mean.
Visually, the film is very workmanlike. There isn’t a whole heap of style on display. It feels rough and ragged like the subject matter. The image is very grainy on the blu but that’s the way it was supposed to look. For those that care, it’s obvious there has been no digital noise reduction. The image looks blasted by the sun without a lot of contrast. Nearly ever seen looks weather beaten, the color sapped by the sun. I have to commend Arrow though, despite what they were working with the colors are vibrant and rich, especially one character’s red shirt. It sounds strange but i remember watching this on VHS and the whole movie looking like all the colors had been eaten by a color vampire. The trouble with the Blu though is that it shows off the film’s shortcomings. For instance one character is clearly wearing a cheap wig throughout the entire movie. For me it was a bit of a distraction.
As always the Blu is stacked with special features like an alternate ending, audio commentary by Wes Craven, a making of documentary, an interview with the film’s composer and more.
If you like The Hills Have Eyes, this is a great release to pick up. The image will likely never look better, the special features are plentiful and everything as been lovingly produced by the fine folks at Arrow. For me though, my opinion on the film remains similar to when i was a kid.