Picked this up at Best Buy today, and wished to share some of my thoughts on this outrageous remake of Wes Craven's creepfest centering around mutated cannibals in the desert; I know there was a request or two for a review anyway, but this may sew up some queries about the release. Before I get into some thoughts on the technical specs of Fox's DVD release of The Hills Have Eyes (which we're all here for, right?), let me say that Best Buy had a display for this title up at the front of store which featured these "Unrated To Die For" versions of the disc, and these included a special plastic clear jacket over the keepcase of the DVD with a red fluid simulating blood floating around in the bottom. Every time you move the disc, the "blood" squishes around the cover and this clear jacket; it is pretty damn cool and I haven’t seen something like this on a DVD release before (yes, there have been wild collectible "head busts" and such for massive movie franchise collections, but I've never seen a slipcase like this). The "blood fluid" fits the theme of the film just right. To be honest, I don’t really know what to make of Hollywood's latest trend of recreating some shocker classics. Sometimes, I adore them, such as in the case of Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (which feels, in many ways, very much like this retelling of Hills Have Eyes) or William Malone's House on Haunted Hill. Other times, I lose all respect for motion picture making when (in my opinion, of course) garbage like Paris Hilton in House of Wax hits the screens, or absolutely inaccurate renderings of old facts just ruins a story like in the horribly inaccurate and miscast Amityville Horror remake, or when tight bodies and breast implant shots are substituted for genuine common sense, as evidenced by the G-d awful Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But then, Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes hit the theaters, and I got that same little kick in my gut that I did after leaving the aforementioned Dawn of the Dead remake: that this was the kind of horror film we need to go back to making to compensate for garbage like I Know What You Did Last Summer. I recently rented Craven's original Hills just to see if I was missing anything and walked away from it simply not understanding what all the hoopla was about; then again, I am the same person that felt this way about Romero's first cut of Dawn; to me, the effects were laughable, the pacing was lethargic and there was just no excitement at all to Craven's vision. Watching the remake, in retrospect, just provided that much-needed boost of excitement and edge-of-your-seat terror -- not to mention the boatloads of gore the remake team poured on for this one. I am not just saying this, folks, because I'm an advocate for "well, it's modern, so it must be colorful and better!" Believe me, I know and understand an original cut of a film as compared to its redo, and there are times the original seems much more intellectual or "dynamic" of a concept; this happened with Tobe Hooper's Chainsaw Massacre, where the remake couldn’t even come close to achieving the raw, visceral mood created in that dark kitchen flooded with Leatherface, Grandpa and Sally -- who was tied to a chair being viscously attacked by these cannibals. Hooper just got it right. The remake did not. In my collection, I keep both the black and white Vincent Price version of House on Haunted Hill and William Malone's remake for Dark Castle Productions as a comparison project because I think they both creep out audiences in different ways. But I digress; Wes Craven's original Hills is not so different from Aja's telling of the story, which finds a family driving through the New Mexican desert en route to California, and then running into a creepy gas station attendant, breaking down on the road, and who are then picked off one by one by a colony of mutated lunatics who seem to live "in the hills" outside the desert they are stranded in. If this sounds all too familiar, well, it should: the topic has been covered in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the awful Paris Hilton version of House of Wax, Wrong Turn, Cabin Fever and the aforementioned remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre....you know the drill...teens are attacked by ghastly disfigured inbred creeps who lure them in during a road trip they are on...yada yada yada. But Alex Aja's vision of The Hills Have Eyes just turned up the ante as compared to Craven's original, creating (with Craven himself on hand as co producer) a shocking, gory, exciting modern-day horror film that genuinely keeps you jumping in suspense. The premise of the film is set up in the opening sequence for us, which suggests the government had been conducting some kind of atmospheric nuclear experiments near the New Mexico desert, but that they denied any leakage or damage had occurred to any life forms. The film then jumps head-in (with a strange, Dawn of the Dead-like title sequence with music that simply does not fit this material as flashes of atomic bombs fill the screen) and we find our family on the road with their camper house behind them, running into the creepy gas station guy who has something to hide, and then the eventual attack of the deformed "mine people" who were affected by the radiation when the government was doing their tests; some of the attacks on the family are downright gruesome, especially one where two mutated freaks attack the younger sister in the back of the camper and steal a baby from its crib (the attack sequence mimics a scene in the original, but that one was nowhere near as effective). Robert Joy turns in a weird role as one of the leaders of this creepy group of savage mutants who ends up doing hand to hand battle at the end of the film with this abducted baby's father. Where to me the original fell flat and just didn’t work, this remake works for shocks and thrills alone. And Joy's makeup job is wild! But The Hills Have Eyes really is the most shocking horror film in a long time, as is quoted on the back of the DVD box by a critic for WCBS TV and People; I recommend it for true gore and horror buffs who like their human flesh eating sequences in spades. I cannot really tell where much more gore was added to certain spots in this cut of the film, as the rear of the keepcase exclaims quite boldly, as compared to what I noticed in the theaters when seeing it. Like Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, here we get more hammers and weapons to the head, perhaps, creating more brain matter on the walls and a great deal more blood splashing and sprinkling whenever the time is right, but it's really gory enough regardless of the "unrated" badge on it. Let's talk some specs... 20th Century Fox/Searchlight Entertainment presents The Hills Have Eyes in a pretty damn rich-looking 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer; for standard-definition, people, this disc looked good. The shots of the family in the desert come off extremely clean and detailed, with skintones and earthly hues of the desert landscape boldly jumping off the screen. There are some moments -- notably in the dark portions of the film, such as night shots and the darkened areas the creatures live in -- that I detected a brief grain running through the image. It got a bit murky, but then jumped back to a startling crisp image when colors of the sunny outdoors reappeared. Because of the Dawn of the Dead-like quick-shot editing especially towards the end of the film, we get that broken up, gritty result -- much like Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later or even Saving Private Ryan; you get the picture. But overall, a nice modern transfer from Fox. I was a bit disappointed to see the lack of a DTS audio option on this release, as Fox has been nice enough to drop one on more than a few of its catalog and modern releases -- The Day After Tomorrow, I Robot, Man on Fire, Predator Collector's Edition, Speed...here, on The Hills Have Eyes, we are regulated to a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track that gets the job done, but I cannot help but think could have been a touch better. From the moment the soundtrack begins, there is a good heft of LFE that announces this is going to be a bass heavy mix; while that remains true, dialogue stays on the kind of quiet side and the track just has that overall "typical Dolby Digital feeling" to it, as if a blanket could have been taken off portions of the audio. It's no slouch -- don’t get me wrong. Universal had me scratching my head, too, when it decided not to put DTS tracks on titles like Van Helsing and Dawn of the Dead but instead gave it to titles like Along Came Polly and Meet the Fockers.....okay. At any rate, wallops of LFE shock this track throughout the film's running time, while surround channel usage is constantly present and there, just not in an awfully alarming way....atmospheric cues like wind, rustling, birds, etc. make their way full time into the surrounds, but because most of this film finds characters lurking around trying to stay away from these crazy cannibals, there is not much for the audio track to do but wait and then explode for a real loud stinger every now and then, so the surrounds don’t have that much to do, either. Yet, when used, the effects were pretty top notch, with the demented, tormenting voices of the ghouls terrorizing the family coming from the surround channels at one point, or the occasional gunshot which pings into the back. The track gets front heavy most of the time, but then will suddenly get full and wrap around you. I suppose if there were any other complaints about the audio track it would have to be that it seemed to need a bit more volume power on my processor than is normally needed for, say, a DTS mix of the same caliber; of course, DTS mixes are typically mixed at a hotter level, but this Dolby Digital track surprised me in that it needed a bit of cooking to get going. But this, by no means, is a bad 5.1 mix. Audio commentaries by just about everyone you'd want to hear from (including Wes Craven), a making-of feature, production diaries and a music video round out this solid package with a downright awesome cover concept (the fake blood). I recommend this to horror buffs and suspense-seekers alike; just make sure you have someone to hold on to while you're munching your popcorn in that sweet spot!! Thanks fellas; fire away with any comments/discussions!