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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > The Hills Have Eyes - Unrated (2006/Widescreen)

The Hills Have Eyes - Unrated (2006/Widescreen)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: B     Film: B



In the middle of a living hell of bad Horror movies and even worse Horror remakes that are some of the worst films ever made in or outside the genre, it was only natural to expect that High Tension director Alexandre Aja’s remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes would be yet another film that was out to ruin the original, gut out anything meaningful it had to say, ruin anything edgy it had to offer and make a mockery of both its genre and the audience.  Instead, it is a stunningly effective remake that is more than worthy of the original and its timing is uncanny.


The theme of cannibalism is all over the place, like the original, as Vietnam was raging.  Now, with inexcusable chaos in The Middle East repeating so many of the obvious mistakes, the remake adds nuclear tests as yet another governmental disaster.  It becomes the reason the cannibals become such and though this might still be condescending as a plot point, it is not without merit.  Either way, the nightmare that starts out as a trip to “escape” the tensions of the civilized world slowly becomes a trip not to nature and peace, but an even more debased version of the increasingly troubled world they left behind.


Kathleen Quinlan, Aaron Stanford and Vinessa Shaw lead the cast of the good family out to take a trip in their RV, with even an infant on board for the fun.  They go into a small town gas station to get fuel, food and help.  Eventually, they find the gas station attendant, who gives them a “short cut” to take, but it instead will give new meaning to the term tourist trap.  Slowly, meticulously, disturbingly, they settle in with strange things being done to them.  At first, they are so vulnerable when stuck with their “sudden” flat tires that they think they are alone when they are not.  The screenplay by Aja and Gregory Levasseur offers terrific suspense and a more psychologically complex set-up than it would first appear.  The fine acting and performances all around further boost the terror, making this a real labor of love on the part of the creators who loved the original and knew what to do with it.  That used to be the motivation for the ambitious remakes of the past and it is nice to see that it is still possible.


The one place the remake can improve upon is in the make-up, but they also use some limited digital work that is never stupid, silly, lame, fake or idiotic.  However, that is not the only improvement, as the remake actually adds layers to the original’s situation of inevitable doom and mutual annihilation.  Another concern would be that this Unrated version might be too intense or have overplayed it hand versus the theatrical cut.  Instead, this more visually brutal version further opens up the true danger the family is in and the script is strong enough to handle it.  I like both versions, with the R-rated cut not feeling as compromised as the differences between the two version of Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992) where the NC-17/uncut version is the only way to go.  That was a tense thriller punctuated with violence, while this is one that builds into a more violent and more violent nightmare.  For more on the R-rated cut, see our coverage of that cut at this link:





The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot by cinematographer Maxime Alexandre, A.I.C., and manages to avoid the endlessly generic look of the endlessly bad Super 35 scope productions of our time, but coming up with exceptional compositions throughout.  Though the colors are slightly muted in various ways, it actually manages to create a dense world out of natural surroundings that only adds to the intensity of the production.  More amazing is that the transfer here is really good, with depth and richness throughout atypical of most standard DVDs overall.  Even the Dolby Digital 5.1 is better than usual, though this calls for a DTS track, but the lack of DTS may have helped the picture.  The sound design is exceptionally effective in its use of music, sound effects, directional placement and timing impact sadly lacking in just about all the films in the genre of the last 10 years.  Wow, is this going to make for an interesting comparison to the Blu-ray version.


Extras include two audio commentary tracks, a making of featurette, a Music Video and production diaries that have extended options.  I enjoyed all of them and I could not urge filmmakers in particular strongly enough to take in all of them, because this is the way to make a Horror film.  Sure, this is not a supernatural thriller and yes, it is remaking a film that is a key picture of the 1970s and at least a minor classic in the genre, but that is all the more reason to catch it all.  This deserves to be one of the top DVD renters and sellers of the year.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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