Before Freddy Krueger terrorized movie audiences, Wes Craven made some other films that were just downright creepy and disturbing. Take today’s movie, The Hills Have Eyes, for instance. In this late 70’s horror movie, you have a family that has become stranded in the desert being terrorized by an almost animalistic family. In a way, Craven kind of took the demented family model used in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and put his own twist to it. Of course, he would soon learn that horror movies tend to be more memorable when there is just one central killer, but that doesn’t take away from what he made here.
The plot: An old man named Fred is packing his truck to leave his run down gas station when a ragged looking girl named Ruby shows up, trying to trade the items she has for food. Fred refuses, claiming that Ruby’s family has brought nothing but trouble to the area and he was leaving. Ruby begs Fred to take her with him but he refuses saying someone named Jupiter would kill her if he knew what she was doing. Suddenly, a family pulls up wanting gas for their car and Fred hides Ruby while he tends to them. He warns the Carter family (Bob, his wife Ethel, their kid’s Bobby, Brenda, and Lynne, Lynne’s husband Doug, their daughter Katie, and their two dogs, Beauty and Beast) to stay on the main road but Bob is distracted by some air force jets flying overhead and winds up crashing the car and trailer off the road. Bob decides to hike back to the gas station to try and get help while Doug goes further ahead to try and find some help, leaving Bobby to look after the girls. When Beauty runs out into the hills, Bobby goes chasing after her and, after hearing the sounds of her struggling with something, finds her mutilated body and while running back to the trailer, falls and knocks himself unconscious. Brenda finds him later that night but he refuses to talk about what he saw. Bob makes it to the gas station where he sees Fred trying to hang himself. Fred explains about his son and his murderous, cannibalistic family when suddenly “Papa Jupiter” Crashes through the window, drags Fred outside, and kills him with a tire iron. Bob tries to run back to the trailer but he winds up being captured by Papa Jupiter. Doug returns to the trailer and the family tries to get some sleep but when Bobby tries looking for Beast, who had run off before Doug returned, he finds himself locked out of the trailer and goes to get the keys from Doug. Unknown to him, Pluto is inside the trailer, looting it of items while Ethel, Brenda, and Katie are asleep. Pluto signals Jupiter, who sets a crucified Bob on fire, drawing Bobby, Doug, Ethel, and Lynne out to try and save him. While they are gone, Mars rapes Brenda while Pluto trashes the trailer. Lynne and Ethel see Pluto leaving the trailer and find Mars trying to steal Katie. Lynne and Ethel try to stop him, with Lynne stabbing Mars in the leg, but Mars shoots both of them, killing Lynne and fatally wounding Ethel. Mars and Pluto head back to their camp, but when they let their brother Mercury know they are on their way, it alerts Beast to his position and he pushes Mercury off a cliff and steals his walkie talkie, which he takes back to the Carters. The next day, Doug and Beast go to try and find Katie when they spot Jupiter and Pluto heading towards the trailer. He sends Beast to try and warn Bobby and Brenda while he continues on. BEast attacks Pluto, tearing one of his achilles tendons but is wounded when Jupiter shoots him. While Jupiter continues on, Beast manages to tear out Pluto’s throat. Bobby and Brenda use Ethel’s corpse as bait to trap Jupiter but when their trap fails, the blow up their trailer and eventually manage to kill Jupiter. Mars goes to kill Katie but Ruby tricks him and runs with the baby. Doug catches up to her and they both run from Mars but eventually, Doug tells Ruby to hide with Katie while he deals with Mars. As the two men are fighting, Ruby grabs a rattlesnake and forces it to bite Mars in the neck, allowing Doug to grab Mars’ knife and stab him repeatedly.
The Hills Have Eyes received mixed to positive reviews, earning a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some of the positive reviews state that the “inventive story ideas and humorous touches give this horror picture an enduring relevancy and stylistic flourish.” The audiences seemed to enjoy this somewhat exploitative horror film as it would earn $25 million at the box office. The cult following this movie garnered prompted a sequel to be made years later and then, of course, the inevitable remake.
This is a good horror movie, in it’s own very disturbing way. The acting was ok as far as the Carter family goes, but with Jupiter and his brood, they excelled at being incredibly creepy. The story was very good although if you are not a fan of horror movies, you will probably think it is something out of a snuff film. There really wasn’t much in the way of effects except for the trailer exploding and the scene with Bob igniting on fire, but they both were pretty good. I will say that the scenes where Lynne stabbed Mars and Pluto’s leg was wounded by Beast used some of the worst fake blood I have seen in a horror movie. Still, if you like a really dark and gritty horror movie, this is worth watching once.
Rating: 3 out of 5