March 16, 2006

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The HIlls Have Eyes (R)
reviewed by Amy Diaz

Imagine a horrific means of death or assault and you’ll see it in flaming color in The Hills Have Eyes, a movie dedicated to absolutely soaking the screen in blood.

You’ve got the dismemberment, the cannibalism, burning alive, bludgeoning, beheading, dog-killing, rape, shooting, baby-endangerment, brutal beating and the very real fear of just being grossed-out to death. The Hills Have Eyes also gives you a chance to stare in horror at the misshapen creatures whose horrible mutations are the result of early cold war nuclear tests and, like sideshow freaks, they provide you with several opportunities to ewww at their hideousness. I am sure all this gore is nothing but gravy to a certain segment of slasher fans (boys 15 to 24) but in addition to getting a little repetitive after a while, it is also, well, quite gory and really surprisingly disturbing in its violence. I must admit, I prefer my violence a little more Kill Bill. Having said that, though The Hills Have Eyes puts innovation into its infliction of pain, it doesn’t really do much new in terms of plot. We still have the family traveling through the desert (mom, dad, teenage son, college-age daughter, daughter with baby, her husband and two German shepherds) and brainlessly deciding to listen to the suspicious one-toothed loner working the only gas station for 200 miles and take the “short cut.” Of course that dirt road through the mountains of New Mexico is a short cut to nothing but the brutal deaths of most inhabitants of the trailer, starting with the first dog who runs off into the hills. The family becomes stranded on the road and decides with fantastic short-sightedness that the best solution is to send all the men and weapons off in different directions. We get the usual build-up of odd sounds, missing items and hey-what’s-that-thing-on-the-hill and then the bloodfest begins.

Middle daughter Brenda (Emilie de Ravin) suffers some of the worst indignities; a fair trade, I suppose for being the most recognizable of the main characters (she’s best known for fighting off creepy jungle dwellers after her baby on Lost). And near the end of the movie, in what’s become something of an expected segment of any film in the genre, the remaining characters get the opportunity to regroup, arm themselves and fight back, with varying degrees of success.

All the dust and grime of The Hills Have Eyes makes you think not of a modern-day New Mexico but of some Depression-era carnival, seeking to make you forget your worldly horrors by delighting you with more fantastical monsters and the threat of dark magic. Though momentarily distracting, both kinds of showmanship leave you feeling swindled of your hard-earned cash. D

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