- Movie Rating -

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

| October 8, 1978

Maybe I just got my hopes up, but I got it stuck in my head that after his disturbing horror debut with the revenge thriller The Last House on the Left that Wes Craven’s return to horror five years later (in between taking a directing a porn flick called The Fireworks Woman under the name “Abe Snake”) with a film that tried to be at least as horrifying.

 The Hills Have Eyes is horrifying, but probably not in the ways in which he had hoped, and certainly not in the effective manner of his previous film.  It seems to have been Craven’s attempt to one-up Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre by having a group of nice white-bred Americans assaulted by a band of inbred, mutant locals while on vacation.

The difference is that Hooper’s film pulled up the horror out of the boring, everyday craters of modern civilization.  Craven’s film is just boring.  Seriously, the first 45 minutes are a checklist of all the cliches that burden every Wrong Gas Station Movie in existence.  They’re all here:

• The dilapidated gas station that is low on fuel but not on bugs and weeds.
• The bearded old coot who warns our heroes to stay on the main road.
• The curious inability of the old coot to tell our heroes what is out there.
• The broken axel that strands said heroes in the middle of God-knows-where.
• The inability of everyone to just stay with the damned car.
• The dog that goes running off and later turns up dead.
• The abundance of weapons that are curiously low on ammunition.

Given that, the heroes of this movie maybe deserve that they get.  It’s hard to say because what is waiting for them is locked and loaded.  Just like Hooper’s film, the family is a band of inbred mutated hillbillies who want to terrorize them because . . . well, because they’re inbred mutated hillbillies.

What happens when the film gets going is not really worth getting into here.  Needless to say, there’s lots of screaming, lots of blood, lots of death, lots of unpleasantness.  Now, I say this with the full confession that I also found The Last House on the Left to have lots of blood, death and unpleasantness but that film was a call-out to our sense of voyeurism, adding a sense of realism to two brutal murders that a lesser film would have glamorized with sharp editing.

The Hills Have Eyes isn’t quite that sharp.  When it isn’t boring, it’s bloody and when it isn’t bloody, it’s boring.  It’s a very long 90-minutes and when its over, you’re not really left with a sense of dread so much as a relief that you’ve just wasted time on a whole lot of not very much.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1978) View IMDB Filed in: Horror