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HTF UMD REVIEW: The Hills Have Eyes


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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   David Galindo

David Galindo

    Screenwriter

  • 1,264 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 30 2003

Posted February 19 2006 - 04:31 PM

[c]The Hills Have Eyes (UMD)
Region 1 • R • Dolby Digital • Available March 6th

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Thoughts on the Movie

If you’ve read my reviews up till now, you’d know that I am not, by any means, an expert on horror films. In fact, the UMD format introduced me to horror films (maybe a better way of saying it is it forced me into the genre), and so far I’ve seen enough to get a basic gist of what to expect in a movie like this. I remember my Texas Chainsaw Massacre review and how completely and utterly angry I was at the movie...but isn’t that what a horror movie is supposed to do? I guess so. How can you make a tasteful horror film anyways?

The second thing I have caught onto is that the PSP isn’t necessarily prepared to deliver the full horror experience when you’re, say, on the subway in full lighting. So for the true horror experience I gathered my PSP, headphones and UMD, got in my bed late at night in total darkness, and watched The Hills Have Eyes for the first time.

It didn’t work. Well, I take that back...it would have worked if the movie wasn’t so utterly horrorless. This is a deadzone of entertainment.

Again, I must say that I have a vast lack of knowledge about horror movies and their history. Horror fans might get angry at me for viewing this movie simply as a movie and not as a movie that has some rich history behind it. I had no idea watching this film that this movie helped pioneer horror films in the 70s. That this was a movie in the horror genre’s infancy, that this is a major cult classic, etc. I can respect the movie’s history, but I can’t say the same for the actual movie.

It starts off in the desert as The American Family travels to California. They’re a bit lost in an Air Force test zone, and soon they start to argue with one another in the station wagon with a trailer hitched behind it. We know the family will be stranded in the desert one way or another, as the movie helpfully tells us in its own description, but how they get there is somewhat original. A low-flying air force jet soars right above the car and spooks everyone (because, you know, those jet-powered fighters can really sneak up on you...twice.) As the family is discombobulated, a rabbit appears in the middle of the road and the dad swerves to miss it. As we meet the family and get to know them somewhat better, the dad comes across as a take-no-crap veteran officer (who retired only a few days ago, nudge nudge) who seems to me like the kind of person who would purposely hit a rabbit on the road and watch the guts fly in the rear view mirror.

Soon after wrecking they decide to split up and find some help. The family consists of two young guys, two young girls, a baby, a Christian mother, two dogs and the cop father. Little do they know their’ be cannibals up in their’ hills, waiting to take a bite out of all of them.

I’m headed into spoiler territory, so be warned.

The father...did you guess? Yes, he is the first one to go. The cannibals get him first, and decide to get to the trailer next. Here is their plan: sneak into the trailer without being detected, grab whatever supplies they can (while being stealthy the entire time, mind you), then beforehand nail the father onto a cactus, pour gasoline all over him, then while still inside the trailer give the signal to explode the dad. Meanwhile the cannibals will...uh, hide in the trailer as the family runs to investigate. Their plan goes off without a hitch, but at that point I had no idea what they were doing. Come finding out they were supposed to kill them all, so why not just destroy the trailer while they were all inside? Or sneaking out after they raid the trailer, then blowing it up, saving them the trouble of cooking them and having a nice feast? Maybe human meat doesn’t keep well in the sun, I dunno.

Later the surviving members of the family try to get back the baby the cannibals managed to kidnap, and as one of the guys stabs the bad guy, the screen freezes for a few seconds (in a red tint) and then it’s The End. That wasn’t the last bad guy he was stabbing either. And what do you do exactly when you’ve killed the bad guys but are left with no vehicles, no food or water, a newborn baby and no sense of where to go next? The movie doesn’t care...the main attraction (the cannibal tribe) was killed, and so was the movie was obviously over I guess.

I fully expected, in a movie about cannibals, to see some good old feasting on human flesh. No dice. There is virtually nothing horrific on screen, save for some gunshot victims. The movie takes forty minutes to get to some action, and doesn’t bother entertaining us in the meantime (instead giving characters some dialogue that contains inside jokes, stories that only the characters could understand, etc.) I again realize that this was a pretty awesome horror movie back in the day, and I also realize I might not be the best person to review a horror film like this one...all I can do is report to you how I feel about this movie. It’s tiring, boring, lacking any kind of redeeming horror quality, and humdrum. That Wes Craven made this film indicates he’s come a long way since then.

Video Quality

I’m going to blame the source material here, since the film is pretty old looking and blurry. While I suppose it looks good for a nearly thirty year old film, it still shows its age. The black levels also could be better, and considering nearly the entire movie takes place at night, it’s a pretty serious issue. The colors do look good, but I was pretty under whelmed overall.

2.5/5
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Audio Quality

The box indicates that this is a Dolby Headphone track, and it sounds good in some instances (such as when the cannibals scream in the distance and it feels like it’s coming from behind), but other times it sounds like they re-recorded their dialogue in an empty room. Much of it is very echo-ridden and the audio can get very loud with explosions, but too quiet for dialogue. Don’t expect much as this is an old film, and I suppose they did what they could with the audio, but it’s still lacking.

3/5
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Extras

Well, Anchor Bay is getting a hang of those menus. They now come with some nice visuals and a spooky audio track.

But that’s it. You can press play, and...nothing else. No subs, no trailers, and certainly no bonus material. The DVD commentary of Wes Craven certainly would have explained what he was thinking while making this movie, but it’s not here. Nothing’s here, and that’s typical Anchor Bay.

I admire Anchor Bay for putting out these cult horror films on UMD, but they should have thought twice before making this movie on their UMD list. It’s source video is a bit blurry, the audio is a bit tinny, and the night scenes are a bit washed out and hard to see (good luck watching in anything but the highest brightness setting). Recommended only for horror cult purists who find the idea of this movie on UMD enticing. There has to be someone out there, right?

0.5/5
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Overall…

Again, I am not the person to review the film. I am the person to review the UMD though, and in that regard this UMD mostly fails due to the source material. Them’s the breaks.

2/5
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IGN CONVERSION:
Movie: 4
Video: 5
Audio: 6
Extras: 0
Overall: 5