The Hills Have Eyes is 1977’s version of an exploitation flick. Would you call it an exploitation flick by today’s standards? Probably not, but Wes Craven still brought some fucked up shit to the screen for the era. Check out the trailer below, and then continue on down for the full review. But be warned, over those hills live some mutant . . . spoilers. Some mutant spoilers. There will be spoilers is what we’re saying.
Reviewed by: Jack
The Hills Have Eyes features an extended family driving their mobile home through the desert of Nevada on their way to an LA vacation. They make an ill-advised stop to try and find some silver mine that the matriarch and patriarch want to visit for their anniversary. Why? It’s not entirely clear, but maybe they got their rings there? Or maybe they just bought some shares in it? Either way, that’s why they’re in Nevada.
Predictably, they break down in the middle of fucking nowhere, and start to get harassed by a family of inbred hillbillies, all mutated by the radiation from the government’s testing of weaponry in the area.
They engage in various terrorizings: skinning the family’s dog, biting the heads off of birds, crucifying and immolating the dad, and even raping Dee Wallace in what is still just a brutal scene to watch.
Alls well that sort of ends well though, as, in a Shyamalan-esque twist, the guy dressed like a child molester ends up being a hero and saving his baby by picking off the mutants one by one. Never would have guessed he was a good guy.
What the Movie Does Right
The injuries in this movie feel real, and feel brutal. Every time someone falls or bashes themselves into a rock, it’s visceral. The mutants are terrifying, made even more so because they’re organized and at least mildly intelligent. While nothing super special, many of the effects are pretty good, and there’s one scene of an eviscerated ankle that worked quite well and made me squirm.
What the Movie Does Wrong
Fuck me are most of the characters in this thing annoying. It’s hard to stand. Dee Wallace really earns the title of scream queen, and it doesn’t help the movie overall. The writing is clunky in other places too, and pretty clear that it’s just trying to get you to the next brutality showcase. Also not great: the sound engineering. This might just be a product of the era, but some of the over-dubs are terrible and noticeable as all hell.
Story: 5 - Like I mentioned above, the story here is just okay. The characters aren’t great, though I do like how he gave the mutants more character than you might expect. The movie is mostly trying to stay out of its own way story-wise and just let the action unfold, and it does a serviceable job at that.
World-Building / Immersion: 5 - It’s hard to stay engrossed in these older films. On one hand, I was pretty riveted by being terrified when the mutants have the upper hand, but on the other, the annoying characters have the bottom hand and yank you right back out with their hands. I lost track of that one. What was I talking about?
Scare-Factor: 7 - This is a scary movie. The mutants are still scary to this day. The killing scenes and the rape scene are fucking brutal. That combined with some decent gore leads to a movie that can get under your skin and stay there.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 6 - Some of the effects hold up really well. The ankle that has been torn to shreds by the dog looks great. Others though, don’t. When they pull the dad down off of the cactus after being burned alive, the effects on his skin and face leave a lot to be desired.
Overall: 7 - This movie is a classic and deserves to be one. It’s not one of the best horror movies ever made, but it’s not far off and is definitely worth a watch. And don’t let Mark fill your head with shit: it’s much better than the 2006 version.