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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Hills Have Eyes: SE
The Hills Have Eyes: SE
Starz / Anchor Bay // R // September 23, 2003
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by G. Noel Gross | posted September 28, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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CineSchlock-O-Rama

VICTORY OVER VHS OBLIVION! After 70 weeks among CineSchlock-O-Rama's Most Wanted, the unyielding vigilance of all CineSchlockers has been rewarded with the capture of ... THE HILLS HAVE EYES!!!

Office of Student Programming
University of South Florida

June 29, 1978

Dear New Line,

Thought you might be interested in the audience reaction to "THE HILLS HAVE EYES."

During the massacre scene in the trailer, a dozen people left the auditorium for the safety of the lobby. Some had to go outside for fresh air. One woman lost composure completely and sobbed in a corner. We calmed her by telling her all the actors were friends and the parakeet wasn't real. As the film progressed, a small crowd of people gathered in the lobby. They were waiting for their friends inside and were too TERRIFIED to go back into the theatre.

Towards the end of the film, the audience was in bedlam. The soundtrack couldn't be heard for the screaming and yelling. Some people seemed to go temporarily crazy. The last minute, men jumped from their seats shaking their fists and urging on the final violence with a BLOOD LUST that was incredible. It was frightening to witness THEIR reaction.

Saturday night three muscular types came back to see the ending they were too scared to see the previous night. We show quite a few horror and suspense films but have never seen an audience as charged up and emotionally drained as "THE HILLS HAVE EYES" left them.

Hats off to Terror,
Stan Kozma
OSP Film Programmer

Now THERE'S an endorsement no critic at the time nor random internet yokel today could or even would dare attempt to match. It's the sort of depraved filmmaking Wes Craven both helped pioneer in the '70s and single-handedly overturned 20 years later. This seductive kissin' cousin of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- right down to the same bone slinger in Bob Burns -- follows an extended suburban family of vacationers who, despite fevered warnings, wander down the wrong desert road and find themselves subject to the cannibalistic amusements of a HIGHLY inhospitable band of neo-Neanderthals whose ancestral tree don't quite fork like it oughta. Once stranded, the city folks' sudden and terrifying isolation rapidly devolves into abject hysterics upon the realization that, well, they're not REALLY alone. Among the eyes in them thar hills is towering, tittering CineSchlocker idol Michael Berryman, as the pointy-noggin'd Pluto, who along with his planetary kin, revels in skillfully taunting his prey in fiendish and increasingly grisly ways. Even little BABIES and good puppy dogs ain't safe! Mr. Craven credits the Scottish legend of Sawney Bean's cave-dwelling cannibal clan as his inspiration, but it's pretty primal stuff in any regard. Man's innate fear of being lunch. Worse yet, having another HUMAN BEING pick your gnawed gristle from his teeth. In lockstep with this intriguing "civilized man vs. wild man" subtext, Wes seems to have the MOST fun when blurring the lines between the two and actually even reversing them. Still, most CineSchlockers, who are wired differently than most reasonable people, inevitably find themselves rooting for Papa Jupiter (James Whitworth) and his people-eatin' posse.

That strange affinity might also explain the appeal of the motocross sequel in which Mr. Berryman makes a miraculous return. As does Beast who may well boast the only canine flashback in cinema history. Robert Houston whines his way only as far as the first reel, while Janus Blythe discovers you really CAN go home again! Those anxious to see quite a bit more of Ms. Blythe should note she worked with Saw maestro Tobe Hooper that same year in Eaten Alive as Robert Englund's exuberant bunk buddy. A second Hills sequel mutated into The Outpost (a.k.a. Mind Ripper) with Lance Henriksen who decides to swing by a secret desert research facility before heading on for a family vacation. Not quite Disney Land for them either.

No breasts. Seven corpses. Tarantula stomping. Pornographic dirt doodling. Multiple explosions. Gratuitous cartwheel acrobatics. One prayer circle. Diddling. Crucifixion. Ankle noshing. Trailer trashing. One rattlesnake necktie. Crowbar impalement. Disemboweled pooch. Attempted suicide. Wild driving. Human puppetry. Boozing. Canary slurping. Retirement is no treat for Big Bob (Russ Grieve): "Twenty five years I'm a cop in the worst goddamn precinct in Cleveland. N@##%&* shoot arrows at me. Hillbillies throw dogs off the roof at me. I'm even shot at by my own men. But none of these bastards have ever come as close to killing me as my own goddamn wife and her goddam roadmaps and her wrong turns and her goddamn hysterical screaming!!!" Even cannibal mamas like Cordy Clark make you clean your plate: "What's the matter? You don't like DOG anymore!?!" Lance Gordon's Mars licks his jagged chops: "Baby's fat. Youuuuuuu fat. FAT 'N' JUICY!" At least Papa Jup has hobbies: "I fixed Grandpa Fred good. I like fixin' people good!" and "I'll eat the brains of your kids' kids! I'M IN! YOU'RE OUT!!!" Pluto attempts some impromptu obedience training: "You f@#*ing devil dog! You son of a bitch! You piece of s@#$! I killed your bitch! I'll kill you! I'll eat your heart! ... Puke eater! I'll strangle you with your own GUTS!!!"

One bit of scolding before launching into further frantic praise for this two-disc triumph: the box cover fibs when it claims to be "Uncut and Uncensored." In fact, just inches below, it's clearly noted to be Rated R. Craven and producer Peter Locke's commentary even confirms that when they recollect all the cutting they had to do to avoid an X rating. (Jupiter waving Bob's severed arm in his own face. Extra stab wounds in the finale.) Yet, it's still the flick as we've all seen it. Just not a ratingless reconstruction as the box verbiage implies. Back to that commentary, though, whata gem! Craven and Locke remind even the most spoiled DVD fanatics of what a JOY and rare privilege it is to listen in on the behind-the-scenes skinny on our favorite flicks. Wes brings his delish sardonic wit to the proceedings alongside innumerable bits of trivia such as his early inspiration, the influence of his own family and even the grandiose notion of the film as an allegory for the world's rage against the United States. Locke's no wallflower either. As producer, he's quick with financial, casting and production insights.

Both also contribute to the set's second finest asset "Looking Back at The Hills Have Eyes." The hour-long documentary offers an enthralling, again often witty, reconnection with key cast members (Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace-Stone, Susan Lainer, Robert Houston and Janus Blythe). Due to their candor and time-hewn appreciation of the experience, its typical formula of talking heads, onset photos and film clips avoids straying into the chirpy tedium of the typical featurettes foisted by major studios. "The Directors: The Films of Wes Craven" seems vacuous in comparison, despite the same running time, with its haste to post script Craven's early grit in favor of star-studded odes to more bankable features like Scream. There's also a hilariously awful alternative ending in which the surviving characters lock hands and skip into the sunset. (Well, practically.) Another short reel offers a split-screen look at the film's restoration, reportedly from the original negatives. (Likely the initial 35 mm blowups from 16 mm.) Regardless, the transfer, while tending to significant dust and scratches, isn't going to knock anyone breathless. What'll probably be more impressive to longtime fans are the new DTS ES and DD EX mixes that have fun with Pluto and Mars' midnight taunts. Don't despair, ye purists, the original mono's included as well. Finally, there's the makings of a first-rate digital scrapbook with oodles of photos, foreign poster art and Craven's downright comical storyboards. The excruciating wait's clearly been worthwhile as Anchor Bay's delivered one of its best sets yet -- a must-own disc for any self-respecting CineSchlocker! (1977, 89 mins, 1.85:1 anam, DD 5.1 EX & DTS 6.1 ES & mono, Commentary, Featurettes, Alternate ending, Image gallery, DVD-ROM doodads, Trailers, Printed booklet with excellent liner notes.)

Check out CineSchlock-O-Rama
for additional reviews and bonus features.

G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.
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