Once upon a time, there was a crazy-awesome film auteur named Wes Craven. He wrote, directed and brought terrifying tales to the big screen. Some may argue this legend still lives, but after Scream 4, I am skeptical. Craven’s hold on horror began in the seventies with The Last House on the Left, but he followed it up soon after with The Hills Have Eyes. And even though he hates horror sequels on principle, he followed up with The Hills Have Eyes Part II. This horror pair has since been remade and the entire set is a huge asset to horror. Fans of Wes Craven, line up, because this is a good one.
The Hills Have Eyes takes a bit of inspiration from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and features a lovely family of inbred cannibals. The TCM cannibals lived in a backwards town in Texas and these cannibals live in the middle of nowhere in a cave. The TCM cannibals were racist, sexist and all kinds of offensive and these cannibals have zero manners and barely any knowledge of how to walk, talk and act around normal people. No matter which way you spin it, cannibals are both creepy and disgusting. They prey on humans and gnaw on their bones. It’s gross and certainly not what typical, everyday humans do. A horror film that features cannibals starts on the scary side of the spectrum from the beginning, but it still needs to add something else to the table.
And what is that, you ask? Survival fear. A normal, fun-loving family in an RV traveling to California breaks down near those dear cannibals and becomes part of the nightmare. Feeling as though you are lost and there’s no one to help you is terrifying and this film does a nice job of translating that on the big screen. Each of these characters is relatable and likable, which makes it easy to identify with their pain and depressing if they don’t survive. Horror films with interesting characters are few and far between, so this plot is refreshing. I know every horror film is technically a “survival” horror, but not all films feel that way. Sure, characters are always trying to survive, but the level of help and/or resources they have along the way affects the level of survival fear. These characters have virtually no resources. There are no other people around and their supplies are limited to what’s in their RV. All of this equates to a high level of survival fear which means a better, more frightening horror.
The cannibals are great and the survival horror is awesome, but it felt like the film dragged at times. There weren’t enough graphic or gruesome scenes for me. I wanted more fear and more scare and more gore. This is a great film, though, and it definitely speaks to the fear Wes Craven typically delivers. Horror island should be a bit freaked out as they take on more cannibals. Those crazy bitches don’t play by any rules.
If you liked The Hills Have Eyes, you might also like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Texas Chainsaw or The Silence of the Lambs.