Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Who's In It: Virginia Vincent (The Million Dollar Duck), Suze Lanier-Bramlett (Chrissy in one of the unaired pilots for Three's Company), Dee Wallace (ET: The Extra-Terrestrial), and Michael Berryman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Weird Science, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home).

What It's About: A family is stranded in the desert where they have to fend off another family... of cannibals!

How It Is: I've avoided this one for a long time. I love scary movies, but I'm not crazy about gore and The Hills Have Eyes has a reputation for being especially gruesome. But it happens a lot where I've built something up so much in my mind (for instance, the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan) that the actual movie isn't nearly as bad as I imagined.

I mean, The Hills Have Eyes is certainly harrowing, but it doesn't linger on the gore the way I expected and a lot of it is shot at night with shadows obscuring details. And so much of the movie is about the threat of certain things happening. Some of them do happen and some of them don't, but I was surprised by how much focus is on suspense rather than just one horrible thing happening after another.

Another pleasant surprise was how much I liked most of the characters. The dad played by Russ Grieve is obnoxious, but I liked almost everyone else in the family. And if I didn't like them at first, they all had moments throughout the ordeal that made me like them by the end. Even if they don't all make it all the way through.

Which reminds me of something else cool. When it comes to these kinds of movies with large casts of potential victims, part of the fun is predicting who's going to die and how soon. It was very cool to see my predictions swerved around and run over. The film constantly kept me guessing; constantly pulling acts of heroism out of unlikely people; sometimes rewarding them for it and sometimes not. I had a really great time.

Rating: 4 out of 5 porn-star-looking family men.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Much like yourself this is one I had avoided because of its shock reputation. During the seventies certain movies felt savage just because they could get away with it and could come across as cheap exploitation.

Then again I survived Texas Chainsaw Massacre last Halloween, I might be able to make it through this on knowing you did too. Plus Michael Berryman is such a journeyman genre actor it might be fun to see his start.

Caffeinated Joe said...

It is rougher than something like a Friday the 13th sequel, but not as hard to sit through as Last House on the Left. Sort of in between, on the horror scale. More akin to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The sequel is not so great. Very strange.

Michael May said...

I was trying to remember the name of Last House on the Left. That's another one I've avoided.

That and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You guys have encouraged me to finally check that one out (though probably not until next Halloween).

Caffeinated Joe said...

Last House is much more ... dirty, hard to sit through, in my opinion. It hits a more depraved level than this one or Texas Chainsaw do.

Michael May said...

I'll continue to avoid it. Thanks!


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