Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Title: The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Dir: Alexandre Aja
Rating: *** 1/2 out of 5 stars

Wow, I really didn't expect to like this one. When I first saw the previews, I assumed it was another POS horror remake right off the Hollywood conveyor belt. Then I heard Aja was involved and thought, "Ok, so there is potential." But I had no idea how much potential!

Sometimes remakes are good. The best example in recent memory is Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead. Just hire a good director, let him re-envision the story, and behold what can happen! In these cases, the remake is just as enjoyable as the original, and neither detracts from the other.

Hills is a remake of Wes Craven's 1977 film of the same name. Both movies involve a family en route to California who get abandoned in the desert and are brutally attacked by cannibalistic mutants. The original is a notorious gorefest and a filmmaker would have to be completely stupid or have some major balls to remake such a horror classic. And Alexandre Aja ain't stupid. He was up to the job, as this film proves. Furthermore, the remake came with the blessing of Craven himself, who served as producer.

Aja last helmed the French thriller Haute Tension which is a GREAT film despite its lackluster ending. Rarely do I love a movie so much that I can forgive a horrible ending, but Tension was the exception. Aja knows how to deliver on the brutality, while offering a subtle sense of black humor. The same holds true with Hills, and I was shocked with what the studio let him get away with. He does not cop out on the good stuff, and his twisted sense of humor remained intact.

The humor is evident immediately from the opening credits, which are reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove's final scene. The film is a tad slow picking up, but there's no harm in character development. Once the heavy stuff kicks it, it doesn't let go. And like I said - Aja doesn't cop out. Expect rape, disembowelment, violence toward animals and children, and gallons of blood.

If you're not salivating already, then you are reading the wrong review. Go rent Herbie: Fully Loaded or something. But horror buffs, don't miss this one. I'm sure there are lots of hardcore Craven fans who have boycotted this remake, but I suggest you give it a chance.

Movies like this and 2004's Dawn of the Dead prove that not all remakes are evil incarnate. They are the reason I don't mind Evil Dead being remade because there is a huge difference between filmmaker-sanctioned re-envisionments and Hollywood's recycled trash. Sometimes you can take a premise and twist it into something modern and great without harming the original source.

If The Magnificant Seven can make the top 100 along with Seven Samurai, why shouldn't other re-envisionments be taken seriously?