RJ Bayley Reviews: The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

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As we close our month of looking back at recent and reviled remakes of well regarded horrors, and rate whether they really deserve the wrath, we come to perhaps the most remarkable.

There weren’t the same cries of heresy as there was with contemporaneous remakes like The Ring and The Grudge when director Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes reimagining was unleashed upon audiences. Perhaps that’s because Wes Craven’s had a few decades on those originals and wasn’t so fresh in the memory (ironically Craven’s only seems to have gained classic status after the remake made everyone remember it)? Perhaps it’s because hollow media fervour over “torture porn” (‘carnography’, Daily Mail; if you’re going to have a tantrum over it, at least use the correct terminology) claimed it for its own outrage before the No Remake Evangelists could get to it. Either way the press gave it a savaging and it’s reputation has only worsened over time.

Imagine my surprise when discovering on a rewatch Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes is astonishingly good. Suspicions of quality arose when my now more educated mind saw Aja’s name on the DVD box. The same Aja that gave us Switchblade Romance and the masterful Pirahna 3D.

Simply put this film gets as close to extreme as mainstream horror can go. Its savage and brutal and has absolutely no qualms about making it’s irradiated antagonists as evil and disgusting as possible. The opening attack is so viciously barbaric and tense that when a gun is pointed at a baby’s head, one is in no doubt that this is a story that might easily pull the trigger.

This film is utterly primal and after the genuine shock of the mutant attacks it allows for one of the most cathartic revenge final acts I’ve ever seen, which also brings a fantastic character arc to its logical conclusion.

The Hills Have Eyes is a breathtaking piece of animalistic, muscular and angry cinema that never puts a foot wrong. It has to be one of the most unjustly maligned films ever made and is, contrastingly, one of the best remakes ever.

★★★★★

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