Alexandre Aja may have made a Horror splash of pure success with his mental mind fuck "High Tension", but his American debut shows just what he's made of...pure intensity. Although remaking the Wes Craven classic might have seemed like a poor choice initially, Aja shows that not only could it be done. But it could be done BETTER.
The Carter family is doing the classic American family road trip. Getting lost in the middle of a desert when a short cut to California seems to be a long cut. To make matters worse, they wreck their car on some questionable directions from a shady gas station attendant. To make matters even worser (I know its not a REAL word), they are on the edge of old nuclear test site. A nuclear test site that may have bred a new breed of terror. A breed hungry for human flesh.
Remakes are notoriously (and quickly) degrading the Horror genre into a even more repetitive pile of drivel. Occasionally though there is one that truly does improve on the original. "The Hills Have Eyes" is one of these remakes. Although the original is a classic to most, Aja's super brutal and disturbing grasp on updating the satirical Horror flick improves on it in almost every aspect giving the world a truly horrifying film.
Even with its relatively silly concept (nuclear mutated cannibalistic people that terrorize a family in the desert? WHAT?!), "The Hills Have Eyes" plays on the viewers fears with relative ease. It has great character builds for each of the family members that make them believable and empathetic and with that initial foundation, the film is able to truly disturb you. The pacing is superbly set to create such a thick and palpable tension that even the intense violence isn't a relief towards the end and only makes it more urgent for these characters in their situation. This play on all of these disturbing situations (being isolated, terrorized, the need to protect children, the desert setting, lack of knowledge) creates a horrifying watch. It makes us truly think, 'what if that were us?' and that's what makes this such a great Horror film.
It also helps that "The Hills Have Eyes" is so expertly executed. Aja's visual style perfectly stylizes the violence and tension. The cast is stellar. The score is damn intense (the initial attack on the trailer has this rhythmatic deep siren that shakes the soul) and the script is top notch. From the first seconds of the family's interaction to the final relief of the falling action, "The Hills Have Eyes" is amazingly well put together.
There are few films out that that strike a note so well to disturb me, but "The Hills Have Eyes" remake is one of them. It nails its aspects almost to perfection with all of its levels and it makes it one of the most mentally trying films out there. Aja's debut in America is a whopper. Pure intensity and the last half of the film never lets up. An instant classic.
Written By Matt Reifschneider