Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Eyes
Director: Alexandre Aja
Written by Aja with Gregory Levasseur based on Wes Craven's 1977 screenplay
Fox Searchlight

Lock up the kids, 2006 has yet another incredible bloodbath in store for you. After Hostel and Running Scared, violence desensitation is hitting a Roger Bannister stride. The 27-year-old French filmmaker Aja made last year's High Tension, a movie so bloodthirsty you thought the world might end by the time it got finished.

We are told in the beginning that the U.S. government (liberal red flag alert!) conducted nuclear testing in the desert, and the miners who lived there refused to leave. Hence, the radiation turned the people there into redneck X-Men. So, the poor bastard family that takes a toothless gas station attendant's advice to take a dirt road shortcut will eventually be treated rather unwarmly. Dad Bob (Ted Levine), mom Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), son Bobby (Dan Byrd), daughter Brenda (Emilie de Ravin of "Lost"), daughter Lynne (Vinessa Shaw) and her husband Doug (Aaron Stanford), with a newborn in tow, all get trapped in the desert at the mercy of the sand people. By the end of it, a rookie cop could make detective with the rap sheet that these guys pile up--murder, attempted murder, trespassing, rape, assault, unlawful damage of property, kidnapping, armed robbery, animal cruelty--that's just in twenty minutes.

Once again, like in High Tension, Aja is a master at sound--and that should also give credit to his sound team. Here, it's once again the best part of the movie. But other than that, whether you like this or not goes back to that Hostel rule--is your best horror the kind that lets blood flow into a puddle the size of the Lake Erie or do you like subtle, creepy scares that don't require massive trauma to the brain? I'm convinced I will never see a perfect horror film--John Carpenter had the right idea with Halloween and it seems like no one has taken his lead. For me, I'd say this was about average. It's got a lot of cheap scares, coupled with the ultra-violence--the radioactive guys definitely look nightmarish, but it's just not my thing.


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