The Hills Have Eyes – USA, 1977 – reviews

‘The lucky ones died first’

The Hills Have Eyes is a 1977 American horror film written and directed by Wes Craven. Inspired by the Scottish legend of Sawney Bean and his cannibal clan, the project had been initiated by producer Peter Locke.

Since 1973, Locke had been trying to persuade Craven to film another savage horror film in the vein of the smash hit The Last House on the Left (1972) but the director had resisted, not wishing to be typecast.

The project was filmed as Blood Relations but Locke persuaded Craven that creepier The Hills Have Eyes would be a better audience puller. Filmed on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, it was released in US cinemas on July 22, 1977. It did reasonably well in its initial release and now enjoys a large cult following.

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Originally awarded an ‘X’ rating by the MPAA, several of the most graphic moments had to edited for an ‘R’ rating. Sadly, the deleted footage is believed to be lost (although the alternate ending turned up on the 2003 Anchor Bay DVD).

A belated sequel, also directed by Craven, The Hills Have Eyes Part II followed in 1984. The film was remade in 2006 and this version also spawned its own sequel.

A family on a road trip who become stranded in the Nevada desert, and are hunted by a clan of deformed cannibals in the surrounding hills…

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Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com

Arrow Video has released The Hills Have Eyes on 4K Special Edition Blu-ray.

Brand new 4K restoration from original film elements, supervised by producer Peter Locke
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
6 x postcards
Reversible fold-out poster featuring new and original artwork
Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and a consideration of the Hills franchise by Ewan Cant, illustrated with original archive stills
Audio commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke
Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes – making-of documentary featuring interviews with Craven, Locke, actors Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier and director of photography Eric Saarinen
The Desert Sessions – a brand new interview with composer Don Peake
Alternate ending, in HD for the first time
Trailers and TV Spots
Image Gallery
Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper

 

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com

Cast and characters:

  • Susan Lanier as Brenda Carter
  • Dee Wallace as Lynne Wood (The Howling; Cujo; Critters; et al)
  • John Steadman as Fred
  • Robert Houston as Bobby Carter
  • Martin Speer as Doug Wood
  • Russ Grieve as Bob Carter
  • James Whitworth as Papa Jupiter
  • Virginia Vincent as Ethel Carter
  • Michael Berryman as Pluto (The Evil InsideDeadly Blessing; The Devil’s Rejects; et al)
  • Lance Gordon as Mars
  • Janus Blythe as Ruby
  • Cordy Clark as Mama
  • Arthur King as Mercury
  • Brenda Marinoff as Baby Katie Wood

Reviews:

“Inventive story ideas and humorous touches give this horror picture enduring relevancy and stylistic flourish.” Austin Chronicle

“Parallel families, Lassie-style pet dogs who turn hunter-killers, savage Nature: exploitation themes are used to maximum effect, and despite occasional errors (the cannibal girl who protects the ‘human’ baby), the sense of pace never errs. A heady mix of ironic allegory and seat-edge tension.'” Time Out

” …given its limited budget, the 1977 drive-in feature is surprisingly well-made, with some smarts in the narrative and the camerawork. Wes Craven did what he could with what he was given, and the results are better than expected. The acting may be substandard, but it’s also part of its charm and trashy entertainment because the characters themselves are so over-the-top.” M. Enois Duarte, High Def Digest

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” …Craven infuses the film with a sense of dread isolation — the shots of the vast, empty desert are perfect tone-setters for a film that builds itself on tension and atmosphere before rolling along to a more violent, shock-filled conclusion. It’s a tightly-constructed piece of horror from that standpoint, as it gives the film an ample amount of suspense because Craven wisely keeps the cannibals shrouded in mystery for just the right amount of time.’ Oh, the Horror!

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Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

“The Blu-ray arrives with a good video transfer considering the little that can be done to improve on the original elements, but the audio is an appreciably marked improvement to its DVD counterpart.” M. Enois Duarte, High Def Digest

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British teaser poster (artwork by Tom Chantrell):

Buy The Hills Have Eyes poster from Amazon.com

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Buy The Hills Have Eyes US poster from Amazon.co.uk

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

Image credits: Wrong Side of the Art!

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