Recurring Nightmares: The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

The unlucky ones are stuck watching this shit.

This is not Alexandre Aja’s strongest offering by a long shot.  Following up the success of the remarkable HAUTE TENSION and then going on to do fantastic drool-worthy stuff like P2 and PIRANHA 3-D this one seems to be an anomaly.  The main difference between this and the rest of Aja’s body of work is that this sucks.  It is a remake but so is the phenomenally fun PIRANHA 3-D so he cannot say he was boxed in by the original material.  Everything else of his that I’ve seen is pretty good and I am champing at the bit to see his remake of MANIAC starring Elijah Wood.

The movie starts off with the Carter family on the way from Cleveland to San Diego.  Big Bob was a detective from the shitty streets of Cleveland and you can tell this because he is a gun nut proponent with a fifteen year old gun nut proponent son.  His wife Ethel used to be a real looker and Kathleen Quinlan has held up well.  I must pause here to give you the following:

Sorry it’s Quinlan not Kinmont, these puppies don’t appear in this film.

They mock Doug for being a Democrat and for someone averse to guns…I must admit that I think most gun nuts (who if you can’t tell by my use of the term “gun nut” piss me right the fuck off–we have a past, I’m a Democrat etc) would shit their pants, throw up on themselves and end up much like the gun toting Carters.  If you own a gun that’s cool but if you start spouting 2nd amendment BS to me you better be in the fucking National Guard otherwise shut the fuck up.  Anyhow, I digress… you can tell Big Bob was a cop.  You can also tell from the .357 magnum he lugs around in lieu of a more modern gun that Harry Callahan would have shit his pants to own.  For some inexplicable reason the family is hauling an old Airstream trailer instead of driving something more modern like a Winnebago (I know I tend to pick the shit out of stuff when it pisses me off so my apologies on the minutia).
I don’t think they serve Icees here.

So the family stops off at the worst fucking filling station in New Mexico and takes advice on a “short cut” to get to the freeway.  To those of you who have never seen a horror movie, this is generally the start of some very bad shit.  I’ve been to New Mexico.  I’ve seen shitty filling stations like this.  I would never, ever, take a short-cut that any salt of the earth yokel recommends.  I’ll drive for weeks if I have to but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna drive off to Gorkville at the urging of the attendant who is usually the only gork in a hill jack cannibal family that passes for normal.  

Well the Carters drive off toward crater town.  The local miners refused to leave the area in the 1940s while the army conducted nuclear tests.  They didn’t trust the government and stayed even after their down was demolished.  They got irradiated and subsequent generations of their offspring look like sideshow freaks.

Is he strong? Listen, bud, he has radioactive blood.

With the aid of the gorks the Carter family crashes in the middle of nowhere.  Having been to New Mexico I can vouch for the locations depicted here (though it was filmed in Morocco).  I’ve spent days without cell reception while touring the state.  That part of this flick was creepy.  The rest not so much.  Well the intrepid Carter clan pull up their bootstraps and the men go off in different directions looking for help.  Meanwhile Emilie de Ravin show us why she is in the film while the family natter back in forth.  Big Bob makes it back to the gas station and after snooping around finds a grimy room in the back that contains the wall of exposition.  Billy Drago then beats the ever living shit out of him like he’s Dalton with pancreatic cancer or something.  Bob’s son-in-law Doug Bukowski (I shit you not) finds a bunch of craters full of cars and boats, where the fuck they were taking a boat with an outboard motor in this blasted hell of a landscape I do not know.  

Doug makes it back to report the road dead ends and a gork, Pluto–apparently they all have names according to the cast list, sneaks in to the trailer and tries to get some action from Brenda.  When he is about to be discovered he yells into a walkie talkie and voila Big Bob flambé lights up the night sky.  The Carters dutifully run out and try to extinguish the Bobfire while another gork makes his way into the trailer and finishes raping Brenda.  After putting Bob out and making sure he is well done the older Carter women go and get shot while the oldest daughter gets sexually assaulted before getting her head blown off.  Doug and Lynn’s baby Catherine is taken setting up the main line of the story.  These three seem to be the “lucky ones”.  I almost forgot to mention the dog mutilation and the introduction of more mutants.

Doug, now firmly in place as our hero, undergoes a dramatic transformation as all heroes do.  He goes into a nuclear test town with wax mannequins and all.  Killing all the mutants that are a threat while searching for his baby girl.  By the end of it he ends up looking like a mix between Marie from HAUTE TENSION and Ash from EVIL DEAD 2.  He even returns with one of the dogs–that also went on a revenge fueled killing rampage much like Doug.  He is greeted and hugged by the still useless Brenda and Bobby Jr. and the three of them then walk out of the hills while someone else watches them.  Bah.

Not a good movie.  It wasn’t shocking, it wasn’t challenging, and it wasn’t scary.  The gore is done well but that is about all that is.  There is no mutant that captures the viewer’s attention or imagination like Michael Berryman’s Pluto.  It seems to be by the numbers horror with no imagination or innovation.  If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t.  I watch ’em so you don’t have to.

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