I loooooved the remake of Wes Craven's classic, The Hills Have Eyes. Directed by Alexandre Aja, the man behind the awesome, inspiring, kick-ass, bloody, gory, and delicious High Tension, THHE was the perfect film for him to take on (after THHE, Aja directed Mirrors, another thrilling and creepy movie - the jaw rip scene is probably the most horrific thing I've ever seen).
Perhaps I shouldn't really be writing a blog comparing and contrasting the original and the remake because it has been WAY too long since I've seen the original.
No, wait. I just found it on YouTube. I love that site.
But seriously, the remake is such an exceptional horror film. It defines horror in both the aspect of gore and violence, and also in the sense of revealing the real horrors of humans. The basic story is a concept Wes Craven used in his first film, The Last House on the Left - two different families, one (for lack of better terms) good and one evil. The families clash in some way and the good, or normal, family is forced to become just as evil and ultimately murderous as the other family, so who is really the evil one?
In THHE, we have the quintessential mutant hillbilly "family." They are grossly deformed due to evil government nuclear bombing or some crap, and live in the hills in the desert, terrorizing, attacking, stealing from, and eating people that happen to travel through their smorgasbord of gross-ness. We really get a taste for what these mutants are capable of in the famous scene depicting their blitz attack on the trailer. I love this scene, and I love that the filmmakers had the balls to keep this scene just as relentless and horrible as the original. The dad is burned to death, the mother is shot, the younger daughter is raped, the older daughter with the baby is ruthlessly shot in the head, and the baby is kidnapped. Holy crap. Oh, and the one mutant bites the head off of a bird and drinks the blood from its neck.
I'm so surprised that a lot of this stuff made it into the final film... so many taboos in one scene. But that's what it takes to make a really successful and gripping horror film. You've gotta have the balls to show people things that they might not want to see. This is reality, this is what it takes to get people to show what they are really made of. What can a person or group of people endure and still have the will to live, to fight?
Such a great message behind the guise of a violent horror film. Viewers that just see that part of the film, though, don't know how to dig deeper and see the beauty that can exist in these types of films. The cinematography in THHE is gorgeous. The colors are all muted to blend in with the background of the dirt and other shades of brown of the desert. Splotches of color pop up in certain places - the red hoodie, for instance - but most of the film seems drained of color, which gives the viewer a real sense of place and feeling like they are in the desert too.
We've got some faces you might recognize in this movie from other small roles they've done, and the acting couldn't be better. The scene where Kathleen Quinlan, the mother, is dying, is so heartbreaking. Her facial expressions, the way she's shaking and obviously in immense pain... gosh, it's horrible. Vinessa Shaw's character is sweet, a new mother who lays down her life for her baby. I wanted so much to see more of her in this movie, and her character died way too soon. But it was a very good shocking moment for the film.
The violence and gore are at just the right levels, if not a little too much at times. The nerdy guy ends up carrying an axe and covered in blood by the end of the film, so what does that tell you? You'd think they wouldn't have much to work with in the way of setting, way out in the desert as they are. However, one of the characters stumbles across a very creepy makeshift town, apparently used in those nuclear bomb experiments in the fifties. The town is complete with mannequin families and fake appliances... plus some members of that mutant family that seem to make this fake town their home. Creepy little girl that has the face of an 70 year old shows up in one of the houses... *shudder*. Some excellent fight scenes take place in this setting, as well.
A good movie on its own, and an absolutely solid remake of a classic story from horror master Wes Craven.
Stay tuned for the number 3 best horror remake, which also happens to be my personal favorite of the three.