The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
What do they want, exactly? A medal?
Ladies and gentlemen I, Disko, Purveyor of Truth, Justice and All That Is So, am wrong. This has happened maybe, oooooh... twice before in 27 years? If I remember right the other two times had to do with Scotland and the FIFA World Cup. But anyways, I had made a rare pact with my own intellect, housed in the side of my brain that deals with shite horror movies, never to go within a million miles of Alexandre Aja's remake of Wes Craven's 1977 "masterpiece" (snigger) The Hills Have Eyes. Two reasons: a) Alexandre Aja's much-hyped Euro horror flick Haute Tension (Switchblade Romance here in the UK, High Tension in the US) was actually utter pish, and b) why in the name of good fuck would I want to subject myself to Yet Another Needless Horror Remake? Let's be honest here and say the odds are hardly stacked in it's favour. Now the big news is this; The Hills Have Eyes is... wait for it... not terrible.
Not terrible? you cry. Is that an admission that you really liked it but are still bound by your most nauseating of egos to hold ground? Well no, actually, it's not. It really is just not very terrible, but the exciting thing about this statement is that after two to three years of NOT A SINGLE GOOD HORROR MOVIE and also TWELVE TRILLION REMAKES OF HORROR MOVIES THAT SMOKED COCK THE FIRST TIME ROUND, to say something of this ilk is "not very terrible" is not just to say "nowhere near as gant as the rest of them", but essentially also "horror movie of the year!". Actually it's potentially "the horror movie of the decade!", but I perhaps naively nurture the hope that something even less middling might osmose it's way into my local multiplex some time this end of 2010.
Now, rather than babble on about plot which, as always in these cases is completely superfluous to proceedings, let me just say: nuclear testing in desert, mutated freaks hiding in mines, family holiday detoured through desert, big massacre. I'm not buying any of that "social reference" pish that always gets thrown about when something like this comes along, because frankly the nuclear tests of the 50s and 60s were irrelevant by the time the first movie came out nearly 30 years ago. Pretentious twats note: It. Is. An. Excuse. To. Kill. People. Not an intellectual discourse on the necessity of arms development versus core family values. What counts is the bloodshed, and in what manner it is foisted upon the hapless victims. Here I am pleased to report that Aja's stupidly contrived decapitations and suchlike of Haute Tension (victim has head purposefully trapped in railings of stair banister, killer slides shelf unit along wall to decapitate said hapless victim) thankfully give way to far more "back to basics" charms. And how.
If it's axes to the head you're after then look no further. My ex girlfriend saw this in London upon release and remarked on the frequency of said interfaces betwixt steel and skull, to which my response was "you're a woman so shut up". How right she was though, and it's not just axe action that perforates the proceedings. Top of the pops has to be some old codger blowing his own face off with a shotgun, and I do mean "blowing it off" as Aja seems happy, unlike most directors, to actually show us what really happens when twelve gauge pump meets double chin, and it aint a neat little hole I can tell you. For the most part it's this refreshingly visceral approach that carries the film, and it does a far better job than self-proclaimed "gory as fuck!" shite like Hostel, which inversely promised all and delivered nothing.
Still, man cannot survive on entrails alone, and fortunately for The Hills Have Eyes the action, after a slow start, is accompanied by some halfway decent performances, such as these things are measured by schlock horror standards. Suffice to say there's no Paris Hilton stunt-casting to be had here, but surprising appearances by the reputable likes of Kathleen Quinlan and good 'ol Ted Levine go some way to lending a certain air of credence. You might also for once notice the odd familiar face among the psychos, such as Billy "he died squealin' like a stuck Irish pig!" Drago; an unusually welcome move considering the no-marks and stuntmen who usually inhabit the latex deformities in such fare.
Of course by and large The Hills Have Eyes is still a diverting 100 minutes at very best, but there's no denying the visceral thrills on offer warrant some level of praise above and beyond that we might afford to pap such as this, this or this. Again, I'm not going to buy any socially reflexive content arguments, but if all you want is axes in heads done to an extremely proficient degree then look no further, for that is everything and all this represents. Accept it for that, lay aside your prejudices based on recent fare and you may, like me, just about glean some semblance of enjoyment from this nasty little effort. Now, if someone could just couple this level of grue with a decent plotline...
I award this dirty wee bastard 3 out of 5 Disko Units.
Ted Levine (Big Bob)
Kathleen Quinlan (Ethel)