In 1977, Wes Craven reluctantly followed the landmark exploitation film The Last House on the Left with a film that would go on to become a key picture in the genre of horror. This film brought a certain thinking man’s cruelty to the age old question of “Civilization vs Barbarism.” It would also help to cement Craven’s status as a master of horror. That film is The Hills Have Eyes.
Our story follows the entire Carter Family on their way to California. The Carters hitch the camper trailer to the back of the station wagon and set out. Big Bob, patriarch of the family, decides to take a detour to see an old silver mine that’s been in their family for generations. Ignoring the warnings from the old man at the last filling station to just drive straight through, they soldier on into the desert. It doesn’t take very long for the family to become broken down and stranded, so they do what everyone does in a horror film…split up to try and find help.
Hey, I can’t really fault them in this film, though. Given their location, they actually have legit reasons to go off in different directions. Of course, it just makes them easier targets for the Jupiter Clan; who have been waiting since the gas station for an opportunity to attack.
The Carter Family is slowly stripped of everything that could help them, or that might have been brought from civilization. The tagline of The Hills Have Eyes is “The Lucky Ones Died First” and that’s very true. What remains of the Carter family, after the first wave of the Jupiter Clan’s attack, will have to fight fire with fire if they want to live.
The Hills Have Eyes is an excellent experience. It has many subtle layers that propels it above the typical exploitation film. The Carter Family all seem like real people…the typical American family, while the Jupiter Clan are exactly the monsters they’re supposed to be. If some thought is applied, however, you could even make a case as to how the Jupiter Clan aren’t even that bad…or at least they’re products of the society that scorned them and left them to dwell in caves.
The Hills Have Eyes Packaging:
This time Hills comes to us in a limited edition Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video. They continue to knock each release out of the park, in regards to presentation and packaging. You’ve got reversible artwork, a double sided poster, a 40 page booklet with essays about the film and notes on the transfer, and six international lobby card reproductions. Packaged in a rock hard slip box (that should become the industry standard for releases such as this). Arrow received a lot of grief over the Bride of Re-Animator boxes being crushed during shipment, they really listened and upgraded their packaging. This means that it is going to be FAR less likely of these being damaged in transit.
The disk contains a 4K restoration…and if that’s the restored version, I’d honestly hate to see the condition it was in prior. My only complaint in this review is that the film doesn’t look restored to me…but I’m not a Hills aficionado and haven’t compared the releases. Is it watchable and enjoyable? Absolutely. The dirt and grain help give the film that dirty, exploitation movie feel, minimizing my one complaint.
The Hills Have Eyes Special Features:
Special features include three commentary tracks. The Wes Craven and Peter Locke commentary is a holdover from the Anchor Bay release. The hour long feature Looking Back on the Hills Have Eyes also made the jump from the Anchor Bay DVD. Outtakes, trailers, and TV spots also transitioned from Anchor Bay. For the first time, the alternate ending of the film is presented in HD. Now the film can be watched with both endings. Rounding out the extras are two interviews. The first is Family Business, which is a quick interview with Martin Spear. The second is The Desert Sessions is an interview with composer Don Peake.
If you’re an Arrow collector, or a Craven fan there’s no reason not to pick this up. Do it fast though, as it’s a limited edition and will disappear quickly. Miss out and you will end up paying Ebay scalper prices.
Great film, exceptional packaging, and interesting special features, I really can’t recommend this title enough.
Note: This Blu Ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.