Review: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Directed by: Wes Craven | 89 minutes | horror | Actors: Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Virginia Vincent, Russ Grieve, Dee Wallace, Martin Speer, Brenda Marinoff, James Whitworth, Cordy Clark, Janus Blythe, Michael Berryman, Lance Gordon, Arthur King, John Steadman

In various horror films, well-intentioned advice is given about the route to be followed by the unwitting future victims. This usually indicates that something is not quite right in the environment. Such advice is also mentioned here (don’t take your family back in there, stay on the road…) and it soon becomes apparent that these were no empty words when the townspeople get stranded on a side road and are then harassed by the most eccentric figures cases.

In addition to the murders and atrocities committed, the horror in ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ is heightened by the fact that the danger does not come from one of the countless movie monsters that have ever been created, but from people. People who in general can be expected to have a conscience and therefore to show compassion, or at least feel bound to some extent by social norms and values, which, however, appear to be completely lacking here. The villains here are people who have literally grown up like savages in the desolation of the hills, partly dressed as cavemen and murdered every traveler who comes to their area. The film is reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in which a group of young people are almost all murdered by a completely insane family. That the savages in this film, in addition to their savage existence, also have some spiritual flaws when one of the savages addresses a killed townsman (I’m gonna kill your kis, I’m gonna watch your goddamn car rust out .) and the others wanted to applaud in agreement.

The partly superstitious savages, with a few exceptions, do not develop. They consider themselves superior to the townspeople and only literally see them as wild. The savages themselves, however, are and remain little more than human beasts. That (in)human bestiality knows no bounds is quickly clear from their actions: several townspeople are shot as a matter of course and another is carelessly crucified and then burned alive. They are also cannibals, as a kidnapped baby is referred to as thanksgiving turkey, and a city dweller is addressed as you fatfat and juicy. They also take pleasure in the other mental and physical torments they inflict on the townspeople. Their beastly atrocities and statements only evoke disgust and disgust in the viewer and cause them to identify completely with the townspeople. In order to survive, the city dwellers go through the necessary developments. The death of several family members and their disbelief about the existence of the savages initially paralyzed the surviving townspeople. With the rising of the sun (symbolism for the victory of good over evil?) their apathy disappears and they manage to stop the savages through a combination of traps and luck in an explosive and devastating way. In the horrific way in which various savages are taken, the viewer will feel just right and thus make it clear that the layer of civilization can quickly disappear from himself. Pity for the savages who ultimately know no other way of life will be hard to find, however justified this may be after the atrocities presented by the savages…

The environment is perfect and mood-enhancing: a stretch of desert, surrounded by hills.

Due to the remoteness of the nuclear testing site, closed to the public, no outside help is to be expected. Calling for help with the radio is also not possible because the signal is blocked by the hills full of iron around. Despite the vastness of the area, its remoteness and the townspeople’s inability to escape from it creates a claustrophobic atmosphere that enhances the threat.

What can be questioned is the credibility of the existence of such a troop of savages. The fact that they can kill anyone who comes into their area for decades should also raise suspicions here and there. Despite the remoteness of the area, the number of victims must by now run into the many dozens. The reversal of one of the savages is also difficult to explain. The savage in question only knows the environment and way of life in which she grew up. The fact that she wants to leave her savages family and then chooses the side of the townspeople can be called very civilized for her.

A relatively unknown, but remarkably good horror film. The atrocities of the savages are repulsive enough in themselves, but their total and utter lack of humanity and morals make the whole thing all the more sinister and terrifying. Good use is made of the darkness of the night to increase the threat of the savages. The uncertainty about when and especially in what horrific way the savages will strike keeps the tension high, as does the question of how the surviving townspeople will fight them. A film that ensures that most travelers in desolate desert regions will take well-intentioned route advice to heart and not turn off the main road if there is no urgent reason to do so, and probably not if there is

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