Viewers will be happy to know that the remake of 1977's "The Hills Have Eyes" maintains the hokey fake binocular point of view device. Ever notice how those two circles with the black borders used for movie POV purposes are not what you actually see when you look through a pair of binoculars (there are no circle in there).
I had the luxury of watching the two films at the same time. I would run 15 minutes of the remake first and then she same15 minutes of the original. Roger Ebert contends that it is a loose re-make; I disagreed until well past the midway point of the story. Until then it pretty much followed things scene for scene, with minor updates to reflect 2006 rather than 1977. The bill for a tank of gas was under $10 in the original.
They chose to alter the back-story; in the original the gas station owner had spawned the original creature back before WWII and he tries to persuade the family to stay on the main road. In the remake the creatures are products of atomic testing and the gas station owner is paid by them to divert people off the main road. The introduction of the old atomic testing device allows the production design people to create a government built fake town left over from the testing. It is populated with old mannequins originally placed there to show the effects of a nuclear blast. This set is a nice addition to the original and the biggest deviation or the remake.
Not so effective is a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" field of abandoned cars and trucks (belonging to prior victims); mostly because the device has become almost obligatory to these familial horror stories (insert "Wrong Turn" here). In the original this was an off camera Air Force dump site from which the son-in-law salvaged some equipment. Making this a textbook example of why showing nothing is sometimes better showing something.
My reaction until well after the midpoint was that the remake was better. It was very respectful of original and the higher budget and technical improvements meant better film stock, more elaborate camera work, and better audio. Neither cast is exactly full of heavyweight talent. The new higher budgeted group might actually be more talented but Craven is a much better acting for the camera director than Aja; so the acting advantage clearly goes to the original (who also seemed to be having a lot more fun with their material).
The remake falters (relative to the original anyway) for the last third of the film. In large part this is because Aja failed early on to define and adequately develop personalities for the mutant family. This was the real strength of the original as the family in the hills was quickly identified and their internal relationships developed. They took a gleeful pleasure in their mayhem and Craven kept them in character throughout the production. The remake is inconsistent, at times it tries to make them more sympathetic and at other times more primitive and savage. Plus it adds a non-ambulatory character like that in "TCM" and "Monster Man". Unfortunately here he serves no purpose other than as an excuse to employ more people in the make-up unit.
Finally, the remake lacks the original's best visual image, Michael Berryman's hairless asymmetrical head which was featured on the poster and video cover art. Berrymore's characterization of "Pluto" became a cult figure with his groveling and whining. Michael Bailey Smith's new "Pluto" does not begin to measure up to Berryman's. The remake's best visual image is a superior "Ruby"; Laura Ortiz manages an expressive performance that is both wistful and eerie-nice job.
It appears that Aja incorporated parallels between the two families but few will notice and even less will care. I say "appears" because somewhere between production and release this stuff was so haphazardly assembled that it lost all sense of unity and purpose.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
- Language: English, Italian, Spanish
- Subtitles: Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish
- Region: Region B/2 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Fox
- Run Time: 104 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B000WBZZAC