The Hills Have Eyes (1977) (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: Wes Craven
Starring: Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, John Steadman
Rated: R/Region AB/1:85/1080p/Number of Discs 1
Available from Arrow Video
Horror master Wes Craven achieved critical and commercial success with the likes of Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street but for many genre fans, the directors seminal 1977 effort The Hills Have Eyes remains his masterpiece. Taking a detour whilst on route to Los Angeles, the Carter family run into trouble when their campervan breaks down in the middle of the desert. Stranded, the family find themselves at the mercy of a group of monstrous cannibals lurking in the surrounding hills. With their lives under threat, the Carters are forced to fight back by any means necessary. As grueling a viewing experience today as it was upon initial release, The Hills Have Eyes stands alongside the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead as one of the defining moments in American horror cinema.
I will start out by saying that if the only Blu-ray you own of The Hills Have Eyes is the old Image Entertainment Blu-ray you can go ahead and throw that thing in the trash. Just by having any detail in the transfer at all, the Arrow Video version of the film surpasses that one easily. Still, I will admit the movie does look good and far better than I’d have imagined it would have. Now, with that being said let me dive into this movie that I like a lot, but do not love, as I actually would take the remake over this one. So the Charter family, Big Bob, Ethel, Brenda, (Little?) Bobby, Lynn, her husband Doug and two dogs Beauty and Beast (haha wink wink, get the name?) are on their way to California. Along the way they stop at a gas station that seems to be out in the middle of nowhere and along with the gas, they get told to make sure they stay on the main road. Now you pretty much figure this is a clear sign that won’t happen and the family becomes mixed up due to Big Bob’s bad sense of direction and due to the fact they apparently get spooked easy by jets and end up with a broken down car, hauling a camper on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. This leads them to be the prey of a group of weirdos that aren’t playing around and are pretty good at what they do due to the fact they aren’t accustomed to the modern era and get by due to them being some sick and bloody thirsty bastards. The Hills Have Eyes is one of those movies that just seems to have an uneasy feel and look to it. While nowhere near the level of gore the remake would have, there are things here that can send a bit of a chill down your spine. While I’m sure Michael Berryman is probably a nice guy, and the poor guy can’t help how he looks, he’s made a career off being spooky and this being back in 1977 the spooky is at its height. He’s here in the role of Pluto of course, and if he’s not enough for you the whole group he runs with, sporting names as Papa Jupiter, Mercury, and so on and so forth, are all creepy as well. While they almost come across as more backwoods hick-ish than animal-like being that live in the middle of nowhere, they still keep some creepy credit, however, I’d be more than willing to bet it was way more so back in the day than it is now.
The movie also can at times, for whatever reason, come across somewhat comedic when I’m pretty sure that was soo not what they were going for. The performance of the character Bobby (the little Bob, not the big one) is something to see, and not necessarily in a good way. Bob (not that there is anything wrong with it if he was) comes across kinda feminine like? I’m not so sure that was as much acting as that was just the actor shining from the characters, but in this setting, he comes across as a major wuss, even when he’s trying to play the brave card. I also don’t get why early in the film when something happens (won’t spoil it) the character didn’t just tell someone?? I mean I guess I could see why they’d want to build that up, but it’s not like they could leave anyway so why not kick the fear factor into the plot sooner? I guess I’m just saying, while I don’t hate the guy at all, Bobby just doesn’t do much for me in this film, but he doesn’t really bring it down or anything. Also if you are looking for a strong character, and no Doug doesn’t get my vote in that department, you have to pick out the family dog, Beast. Beast is not only a bad ass in this film, he’s also smart. I dare say he’s smarter than the rest of the characters and that includes our crazy desert living villains. He sticks and moves, he sneaks up on people, he goes for the areas that hurt the most, and he’s smart enough to pick up communication devices and take them to the proper people. Basically, he’s a smart dog and as noted before in this little rant of mine, smarter than the Carters, smarter than Doug, and smarter than our bad guys. I guess this alone would justify why Beast has a flashback in the sequel right? So if you want someone to root for and get behind while watching these tragic events unfold, root for The Beast!
– 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 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
Quality of Transfer: 83%