Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Hills Have Eyes

Hot on the heels of slasher flicks like Wolf Creek and Cry_Wolf (so many wolves?) this year is The Hills Have Eyes, a remake of Wes Craven's 1977 movie of the same title. Directed by Alexandre Aja, who brought us High Tension (shown here uncut late last year), this remake is suprisingly quite good and bloody entertaining, and that's despite being behind the other releases as mentioned over the past 2 weeks. If you're already jaded by the wolves, grit your teeth and go for this one. Bloody satisfaction guaranteed.

A word of caution, this movie isn't just plainly blood and gore. There are bits that were chopped off (pardon the pun), either by the filmmakers to secure an R rating in the US, or done so by local censors. What works, is that somehow you actually give a damn for the characters / victims. Why? Because they're family. And it could be yours.

Unlike the teenage swingers in Creek, or rich frat kids in Cry_Wolf, The Hills Have Eyes sets focus on a typical family - mom, dad, 3 kids, one of whom is already married to a telco salesman, and have a newborn baby. They're on a road trip (very popular movie element hor?) and made a pit stop at a dinghy petrol kiosk (doesn't it always?), with a sly and suspicious looking pump attendant (stereotypical, I know). They're directed to a short cut (uh-oh, bad) in the middle of the New Mexico desert on the way to California, and naturally, their vehicle encounters an accident - yes, in the middle of nowhere, to set the scene.

So while the family bickers and decides upon their action plan, little do they know that the hills have eyes. They are being watched, and you're gleefully awaiting some action to happen. The prologue and opening credits will have prepared you for what's to come - grotesque humanoid creatures who are mutated by nuclear energy, with a thirst for violence and hunger to kill. However, don't ask too many whys or hows, just accept the fact that it is so.

Without spoiling much, it's wicked. While on one hand, you're anticipating something to happen, by the time it does and the movie progresses, you'll be sucked into actually wanting the worse possible to happen, as a means of eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth, broken skulls and bullet wounds, the works. While the film might want to suggest something about the negativity of nuclear testing, it doesn't get bogged down by the suggestion and before you realise, it gets tossed out of the window in exchange for action.

The cast, while some having more screentime than others (you need the fodders to have the movie belong to the slasher genre), did a rather commendable job, despite the genre. You see genuine fear in their eyes, and the tone of their voice - they're really afraid. And you witness their progression from fear to the downright need for primal survival of the fittest. It's pretty neat to see the all too familiar setting up, the initial incident striking fear and confusion into their hearts, and the resolution to the final act, which is split into two different narratives. Somehow the strength is in how the situation develops, although it did take a little while to get there.

Despite the cuts and having other lesser slasher flicks shoved down our throats the past weeks, if you have to watch something bloody good, The Hills Have Eyes will be my recommendation.

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