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Movie Review

The Hills Have Eyes

MPAA Rating: R for strong gruesome violence and terror throughout, and for language

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
STAFF WRITER

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama, Suspense, Horror, Thriller, Remake
Length:
1 hr. 47 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
March 10, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Every time you buy a movie ticket or rent a video you are casting a vote telling Hollywood “That’s what I want.” Why does Hollywood continue to promote immoral programming? Are YOU part of the problem?

How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer

Are you going to Heaven?

Is Jesus Christ the answer to your questions?
Featuring: Kathleen Quinlan, Ted Levine, Aaron Stanford, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, Robert Joy, Dan Byrd, Billy Drago, Ezra Buzzington
Director: Alexandre Aja
Producer: Wes Craven, Peter Locke, Marianne Maddalena
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

“The lucky ones die first.”

I’ve never seen the Wes Craven original of this film. But Craven hand-picked the team to do the remake, and reportedly the two versions are similar.

In the “grabber” opener (which in this case is literal), a radiation-suited team of researchers in the New Mexico desert are assaulted, killed and dragged away by some strange-looking people of whom we get only a few glimpses. This is followed by archive footage of above-ground atomic bomb testing, and photos of people with disfiguring mutations. Even without any advance publicity or prior knowledge of the film, we’d pretty clearly pick up the inference that the “desert people” are a community of mutants created by nuclear fallout.

Then, the main story. A family in a pickup and a camper-trailer, consisting of mom, dad, a teen son and daughter, a grown daughter, her husband and their baby girl (plus two German Shepherd-type dogs), take a grizzled gas station attendant’s advice and try a “short cut” across the desert. Problem is, the attendant is in cahoots with the mutants, and the road he’s sent them on is a dead end.

Like most slasher/gore films, this movie gives us a minimal plot, a setup with innocent people being picked off, and a payback in Act Three. Anything beyond that is usually fluff, window dressing, something added to create the illusion of high production values. The twist here, projected as social commentary, is that the mutants are the result of the callousness of the U.S. Government, so there’s some slight ambiguousness as to who are the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” Emphasis on “slight.”

After the pickup’s tires are blown by a booby trap, the family must decide the best course of action. The two adult men walk out to get help, in opposite directions. One comes back. One does not. Night falls. From there on, the film quickly disintegrates into a disgusting bloodfest. People are killed by firearms, blades, explosions, falls, animal attack, and burning alive. Women are sexually assaulted and/or murdered in cold blood. The mutants are cannibals, and are shown eating human flesh. They also attack the dogs and some pet birds, biting the head off one of the birds and sucking its blood. (You know a film is over the top when teenagers, who presumably knew something about the film beforehand, walk out.)

The mutants even threaten the baby with firearms (to force her mother to do their bidding), take her captive, and intend to kill her. SPOILER: The baby comes through unharmed, at the end of the film. But, the film ends without a satisfying resolution… we don’t know whether the survivors made it out of the desert or not.

The small amount of strong sexual-related content (attempted rape and other assault, including a mutant drinking from a nursing mother’s breast) is very unsettling; but to be honest it’s handled fairly discreetly, with no visible nudity. The violence is another matter. It’s gross, harsh, unrelenting, and in-your-face. Buckets of blood. How many times can they show an axe or a spike being buried in someone’s brain, before we get tired of it? This theatrical release film is actually a re-edited version; the original version was rated NC-17. What was cut out? I don’t really want to know.

The profanity is quite strong, consisting of a lot of f-words, common curses and various other colorful language.

In the midst of all the mindless violence, there are a few touching scenes of some of the mutants, particularly the children. And there are, in fact, acts of selflessness and courage by people on both sides of the conflict. So to the degree that you take the story seriously, it really does mess with your head.

The mother of the family is projected as a former hippie who has become a person of faith. Before the men walk off in search of help, she huddles the whole family together (over the objections of some) and prays for God’s protection. Since not everyone survives, some people might take that as evidence that God doesn’t hear her prayer. Her husband, a retired Detective, says that he’ll take his bullets over her prayers any day. The son-in-law is a “Democrat” and hates guns, but before the film is over he’ll be “converted” and learn how to use them as well as how to fight hand-to-hand.

The theme of mutant monsters being created by nuclear testing goes back more than 50 years, and it never seems to go out of style. The U.S. film “Them!” (1954) dealt with giant ants, and had good special effects and several competent actors including James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, James Arness, Fess Parker and even Leonard Nimoy. On the other side of the ocean, also in 1954, there was of course “Godzilla.” Innumerable creatures, from spiders to crabs to Gila monsters, have been slated for nuclear-mutant status by the hundreds of films of this sub-genre. Rarely, the mutants are people instead of animals. And that puts a slightly different spin on things. Had this film been oriented differently, with a larger emphasis on the humanity of the mutants, it could have been true heart-wrencher. As it is, it’s constructed pretty much as a standard slasher; but the fact that there’s lost innocence on both sides of the conflict means that no matter how the story ends, it will be unsatisfying.

I don’t recommend this film to anyone.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

See our review page on the sequel to this film: The Hills Have Eyes II


Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This is a slick, well-made thrill machine; it starts out with a bang and doesn’t let up till the closing credits. I found the characters interesting; they weren’t your average victims, but people with personalities. I thought the performances were quite good. …This was the best horror film since the “Devil’s Rejects”, in my opinion.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Alex Delany, age 31
Neutral
Neutral—…This was very obviously an extremely disturbing and very bloody film, and no review that I read before going to see it failed to note these facts. Anyway this is certainly not a movie for the weak-of-heart, weak stomachs, and most Christians WILL NOT be entertained by this film. It is a VERY violent and gory film!

One thing I noted early on that is sure to offend Christian viewers is the scene where the stranded characters pray as a group for assistance from a guardian angel, which is an obvious slap at religion because of the gruesome events that will follow. The central premise of the story is that an old geezer who operates a crumbling gas station in the middle of nowhere has been directing innocent people to take what he says is a shortcut that will lead them into a territory where cannibalistic mutants reside. They, in turn, give the geezer things that belonged to the hapless victims.

And so our main characters are so directed towards this “shortcut” which leads them directly to a trap that renders their vehicle immobile. Their cell phones and cb radio don’t work, leaving them effectively stranded without assistance. The mutants, who were made mutants by the testing of nuclear weapons by the U.S. government, are the most violent, evil, and blood-thirsty lot I have ever seen in a horror film. There is one exception, however. The mutants' young children are all innocent and untouched by this bloodlust their elders are afflicted with, and the eldest child will eventually perform an act of selflessness…
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Edward Drake, age 34
Negative
Negative—I am a Christian, and I do like scary movies. I expect them to be a little gory and violent, but this is one movie I would never recommend to anyone to see. It was extremely demented and too violent for me to handle. There was just one gory, sick scene after another, giving you no time to breathe and take in what you just saw one second before.

I was very offended, to the point to where I was trying to keep myself from crying. My fiance and I left after maybe an hour, right after every terrible thing you could imagine happened at the camper—from burning someone alive, to rape, to beating, to shooting someone in the head/or stomach all without turning the camera away, seriously you see everything. I was shaking and very sick at my stomach. Do not go see this movie. I’ve never felt so guilty after watching such terrible things. And the worse part was, even after we had left I could still see those images in my head and it was all I could think about which then made me feel even more guilty.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Casey, age 21
Negative—This was the most disturbing movie that I have ever watched period. (And I have seen a lot of horror/gore/scary movies.) I not only felt very guilty at having watched the movie, but was also convicted of talking a friend into coming along and watching it with me. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Michael, age 32
Negative—…I knew when I went to buy the ticket that this was going to be a scary, gory movie. It didn’t say anything about sexual content, so I thought it would be fine; I’ve seen a lot of gory movies. But this movie was too much… way too much…(SPOILER WARNING) at one point there was a girl being very forcefully raped (no nudity), someone on fire who is alive, 2 people get shot with a very large gun and doesn’t cut away… one in the head… the movie gets worse and worse from there, and that all happens in less then five minutes. This movie was too much period. I am sorry I took my friend to go see it. Yeah, it made me jump. Yeah, it made my heart pound, but at the cost of what; I had to set through a hour and 45 min of that. I was in shock after the movie was over; they never cut away when something happens. If you are considering this movie …please, learn from my mistake.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Jared, age 20
Negative—This movie was a disgusting mess. …The sheer graphic nature of this movie went above and beyond and had parts that were extremely unnecessary and unsettling for anyone of human substance to view. The over exposure of animal cruelty and how specifically disgusting it portrayed the mutilation of the animals should make any decent person walk out of the movie theater. Going to see this movie was like going to the end of my driveway and eating the waste from my trash can. …This movie was sick, extremely too graphic in nature, and had some far too horrific scenes… Overall, if you enjoy watching live animals be ripped apart and gutted, and bodies be burned alive and mutilated, then this movie is just right for you. Just be prepared that the camera doesn’t turn away for the disasters of death, and all is laid out on the table for viewing. Pass this movie by and go see something that is settling to the stomach and is possible to sit through completely. This movie is a complete waste of 107 minutes of a person’s life. I would ask for them back if I could.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Laura, age 22
Negative—I, being a Christian, went to the movie knowing that it was going to be scary and gory, but I didn’t expect everything that it was. I was only in the movie for 30 minutes and had to leave because I couldn’t take anymore. I left right after you witness the daughter being raped by a “freak” and the killing of the bird. I was literally sick to my stomach. I had guilty on my conscience for actually staying in there for 30 minutes. I found this movie to be crude, vulgar, and most of all immoral. I have seen plenty of scary movies, but this one tops the cake. Please, Christians, tell everyone you know to save their money and Do Not see this movie. I walked into the theater willingly, but God helped me walk out with a little bit of dignity.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Kim, age 25
Negative—I have always enjoyed a good horror movie, and I understand that with any horror film there will be violence, killing and some amount of gore. Yet, this film was so over-the-top that I looked away for most of the time I was in the theater. I watched about half of this movie before I walked out. As soon as the mutants were trying to rape one of the girls (on top of all of the horrific violence), I couldn’t take anymore “entertainment.” Do not see this movie.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Emily, age 22
Negative—My boyfriend and I walked out after 40 minutes. Several others in the theatre walked out before us. It is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I enjoy scary movies, but this was over the top with extreme violence, gore and just plain gross!
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Darlene, age 45
Negative—I expected a certain amount of blood and gore, based on the trailer and the genre, but I was especially sickened at the sheer amount of both, as well as the lack of comic relief or lighter moments. However, what really made me feel sick to my stomach (as if the blood and gore wasn’t enough) was the cinematography. Our group sat about ½ way back in the theatre and the jerky camera shots and continual motion made it seem like an already bad carnival ride gone even worse. The group I was with (all of us Christians) discussed this and came up with one scene that was noteworthy—the little girl mutant sacrificing her life for the baby. My advice would be to avoid the film, even if you do like this style of picture, because it was lacking in all areas, even technical and artistic quality. In a nutshell, it was simply too much of a bad thing.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 1
—KMJ, age 44
Negative—I went to go see this movie, without even seeing previews. It sounded like a typical scary movie, not a horrific nightmare. My friends And I all attend church together so I trusted there decision in this movie. The cruel, inhumane graphics of this movie and level of disgust was appalling. My friend and I turned our heads and covered our ears for 15 minutes and decided it was too much to take. We ended up walking out of this movie somewhat near the end. I don’t recommend you see this movie!
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Kara, age 17
Negative—My wife and I went to this movie expecting a compelling plot. Perhaps a story about a group of people affected by exposure to radiation from nuclear testing in some remote area. To an extent, that story was somewhat underlying. The only time a story was mentioned was when the big-headed guy in the wheelchair began his dissertation of how the people who set of the bombs had made them what they had become. Instead of a great plot, all we found was a showcase for blood and gore. A 'shock-and-awe', if you will, of the visual senses, which our society is frighteningly craving increasingly. I understood the desire for vengeance from the people of the hills. I understood the need for the family to survive. I didn’t understand the mindless display of violence without real purpose.
My Ratings: Offensive / 2
—Jonathan Hicks, age 29
Negative—I am a horror movie buff, and consider that I have a fairly strong stomach for movie gore. I’ve always been a fan of the George A. Romero type movies, so my husband and I went to see this film just expecting a very scary good time. I left feeling disgusted and sick to my stomach (literally). I read the main review here, and I just need to say that there was no “attempted rape” scene; there was a rape. No nudity, thankfully, but the rape scene of a teenage girl was brutal to say the least. Sitting beside my husband I had to divert my eyes from the screen as I sat and cried silently. Had I known he was a upset as I was we could have left at that point. After discussion we both agreed this was something that should have been left out of the movie. Mutant, flesh-eating (unbelievable) characters is one thing; vicious, violent (realistic) rape scenes is another. As the mother of a 20 year old daughter, I would not recommend this movie to anyone—absolutely horrible.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Rhonda Walton, age 40
Negative—I went to see this movie hoping it would be a good date movie because it was supposed to be scary. What I saw though was one of the most graphic, disgusting films I could ever imagine. I had to look away for about 80% of the movie, but then had to walk out to keep from throwing up during the rape scene. The most disturbing part of the movie is where the teenage daughter (aged about 15 or 16) is sleeping while 2 mutants come in her trailer and take turns raping her while the rest of the family is outside watching the dad burn alive. Being a teenager today, I am desensitized to a lot of things, but this movie was immorally wrong, and I warn all my friends about seeing it.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 2
—Ruth, age 15
Negative—I do not think I have felt honestly, truly guilty after seeing a movie before this. Being a Christian teenage girl, one can imagine that I was truly horrified at the rape scene. That to me was one of the scariest things I think I have ever seen in my life. Why someone would ever depict such a thing as physically and morally wrong is beyond me. As I tried to keep my dinner in my stomach after watching this, I wondered if the filmmaker’s intent was to make people sick to their stomachs; and if so why? If a point is trying to be made by depicting such graphic things, it is most definitely a point that should be left un-made, until a better method can be found.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Stephanie, age 16
Negative—Anybody that has a good heart and mind should not waste their time with this movie. My husband and I watched it in the privacy of our own home after borrowing from a family member; let me just say that this is one movie that will not be purchased by either of us. I sat through the complete movie after turning away for about 10-15 minutes while everything happened at the camper. The most disturbing part of this movie to me was that an innocent baby was threatened with a gun. I am a mother of a 10 month old son and another child on the way, I would have never allowed a child of mine to be cast in a movie of this nature. In my opinion, this movie should not have been released to the public; it is violent, gory and just wrong. Please do not watch this movie, and for those who have I’m sorry for what you have seen.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Anonymous, age 18
Negative—I like a good horror movie from time to time, or I should say one with suspense to it. But this has to be the WORST film ever! I did not view this entire movie. I got to the part where the mutant shot the mother of the baby and that was the end for us. I am very thankful that we did not pay money to see this movie. My husband and I turned the channel when the mutant ate the bird. A little blood and gore is expected, but this was just over the top with it. I couldn’t get the images from this movie from my mind even after turning it off. This was a very demented and disturbing movie for any human being whether they are a Christian or not. I wouldn’t recommend anyone viewing this movie. It’s not worth the time or money spent.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 1
—Lisa, age 33
Negative—I thought this film was absolutely sick!! The people who thought up this movie are twisted and need help, it really scared and shocked me and nearly made me physically sick!!…
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Elaine, age 22