Directed by Alexander Aja, starring Aaron Stanford, Vinessa Shaw, Kathleen Quinlan, Emilie de Ravin and Dan Byrd.
Lets get this straight from the outset. This is not a great film. It lets itself down on a number of fronts. One factor is the acting, or lack thereof. It is hammy and overdone, especially in the death and destruction that is the finale. With the accompanying dramatic music, it is unintentionally hilarious. It simply just doesn't work.
More importantly, this film is very, very disturbing with several shockingly gruesome scenes which are very hard to watch. It's quite an ordeal. 'The Hills Have Eyes' falls into the horror/thriller bracket and does both well, to a small extent.
However, despite the fact that there are many disgusting - to put it mildly - acts and situations in the film, there are also several touching scenes. Moments with mom, daughter and grandchild for example, and several with dad and son, which gives the viewer a respite from the blood and guts that make their first appearance early on.
Based on producer Wes Craven's 1977 film of the same name, 'The Hills Have Eyes' features the trials and tribulations of the Carter family who are making their way to San Diego with their camper van for a holiday. They stop off at a gas station where the attendant gives them directions for a short cut - which they take. And that's the start of their troubles.
What the Carters don't know is that the US government had used the area for nuclear testing in the 1940s and 1950s. The effects of that testing are not widely known outside the area and those affected don't take kindly to outsiders. The Carters are soon to find out that all is not as it seems.
Take that scene from 'Deliverance', put it with most of 'Straw Dogs' and you're somewhere near what this film is about. There's lots of tension, drama and impending peril but the horror element really isn't there and that's what lets it down. But there are some redeeming features. Maxime Alexandre's sweeping desert photography is brilliant while the make up artists are deserving of some class of award.
Of the cast, Dan Byrd as young Bobby Carter is highly entertaining and his character, possibly having spent many long hours watching repeats of 'McGyver', proves very resourceful with all manner of household items like gas canisters, matches and fishing rod line. Elsewhere, Kathleen Quinlan is good as the mother of the brood, but what an actress of her stature is doing in a film like this is anyone's guess.
Here's the best tip you'll get all year. Don't go to see this film. If you're a horror/suspense fan you'll feel very let down. If you're any way squeamish, stay away.