Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Hills Have Eyes (1977, Wes Craven)


(1977, written & directed
by Wes Craven)

Here it is, the film that actually showed Wes Craven might be capable of directing great horror pictures. I hesitate to call this film "great" because so much of it isn't - but it's definetely got a lot of great things in it and it's miles above the horrendous "Last House on the Left" which preceded it.
The "plot" is essentially a reworking of Tobe Hooper's "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" writ large on 35mm film, as a family find themselves trapped in the desert while deformed mutant cannibals run around picking them off, but it features the added dynamic of family vs family as the straight family find themselves having to resort to nasty violence to fend off and destroy the mutant cannibals. It's got a pretty solid cast for what it is, featuring early appearances for genre favourites Dee Wallace and Michael Berryman and "Shogun Assassin" director Robert Houston as Bobby. It's got baby-eatin' (intended), bird-eatin' and all kinds of cutting, and shooting. But what makes this a truly exceptional low-budget horror film is it's location. Actually shot in the middle of a startling desert environment, the film is incredible to look at even when the lighting seems a bit rough (which can be quite often, I think). The huge rock face surrounding the family is etched into my brain like few movie locations - this is a barren, horrible place, full of rattlesnakes, tarantulas and mutant cannibals.

What I find particularly interesting is that, dissimilar from most horror film, it enschews traditional claustrphobia for a kind of agoraphobia. The family's kinda trapped in a big scooped out valley in the desert - nothing but highway and desert cliff face. They can be seen from all angles, especially in the dark where they themselves can see absolutely nothing.

Pretty cool film. Evocative landscape filmed atmospherically and with passion and confidence plus a compelling story and script. Actually, this is definetely one of Wes Craven's very best scripts, right up there with "Nightmare on Elm Street". Fair play to him.

No comments:

Post a Comment