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The Hills Have Eyes

Official U.S. film poster
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Produced by Wes Craven
Peter Locke
Marianne Maddalena
Cody Zwieg
Written by 2006 screenplay:
Alexandre Aja
Grégory Levasseur
1977 screenplay:
Wes Craven
Starring Aaron Stanford
Emilie de Ravin
Ted Levine
Laura Ortiz
Dan Byrd
Vinessa Shaw
Kathleen Quinlan
Music by tomandandy
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date(s) United States:
March 10, 2006
Running time 107 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 Million
Gross revenue $69,770,032
Followed by The Hills Have Eyes 2

The Hills Have Eyes is a 2006 remake of Wes Craven's 1977 film of the same name. Written by filmmaking partners Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur of the French horror film Haute Tension, and directed by Aja, the film follows a family who becomes the target of a group of mutants after their car breaks down in the desert.

The film was released theatrically in the United States and United Kingdom on March 10, 2006. It earned $15,500,000 in its opening weekend in the U.S.,[1] where it was originally rated NC-17 for strong gruesome violence, but was later edited down to an R-rating. An unrated DVD version was released on June 20, 2006. A sequel, The Hills Have Eyes 2, was released in theaters March 23, 2007.

Contents

Plot

A team of men in NBC suits with geiger counters comb a secret military base where the government once conducted nuclear tests. An injured man appears and pleads for help, just before they are attacked by a large man wielding a pickaxe. The men are slaughtered and then chained to the back of a pickup truck, and dragged off.

The film opens near the Yuma Flats base at a gas station run by an elderly man, who for an unexplained reason is searching for someone called Ruby and yelling that he doesn't want to be involved any more. Returning to his home, he finds a holdall containing various personal effects and a human ear.

Ethel Carter (Kathleen Quinlan) and her husband Bob Carter (Ted Levine), a retired police detective, are traveling from Cleveland, Ohio to San Diego, California on their silver wedding anniversary. Also present are their daughter Brenda (Emilie de Ravin), son Bobby (Dan Byrd), eldest daughter Lynn (Vinessa Shaw), her husband Doug (Aaron Stanford), their baby daughter Catherine (Maisie Camilleri Preziosi), and the German Shepherds, Beauty and Beast. While "Big Bob", the father, talks to the gas station manager, we see a mutant grab Bobby's red sweatshirt out of the car and run off. Bobby and Brenda head away from the building and Bobby goes into a nearby Porta-Potty. He is urinating when he sees someone watching him through the window. Panicked, he exits the stall and blames the incident on his sister when in actual fact it was the mutant who stole his red sweatshirt from the car. After believing one of the family has seen the contents of the holdall, the attendant tells Bob of a shortcut through the hills which is actually the secret Yuma Flats base.

After driving a few miles along the shortcut, the SUV's tires are punctured by a makeshift spike strip causing the car to crash. Bob walks back to the gas station for a tow truck, and Doug walks the opposite way to get help. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the family are being watched by someone through a pair of binoculars. Beauty runs off into the hills and Bobby chases after her, eventually finding her gutted corpse. Frightened and distraught, Bobby runs off, but slips and falls, knocking himself unconscious. A young female mutant named Ruby comes across him and is intrigued by him. As her brother Goggle chews over the dead dog, Ruby safeguards Bobby from him and watches over him until he comes to.

Later, Bob finally makes it to the station and finds the hysterical gas station attendant, who commits suicide by shooting off the front of his own head with a shotgun. In fear, Bob tries to flee from the scene in his car. As he starts the engine, he is taunted "Daddy...Daddy...Daddy!...Oh daddy" by Papa Jupiter (Billy Drago), the leader of the mutated family, but before Bob can flee, Jupiter attacks Bob and drags him into a mine tunnel with the help of his mutated family members, Lizard (Robert Joy) and Pluto (Michael Bailey Smith).

When Bobby awakes, he returns to the trailer and is told that Beast has gone missing as well. Doug returns with fishing poles and toys, but with no news of anything but a dead end in the direction he went and tells Bobby that they will search for Bob if he does not return by midnight. The dead end that Doug has found is actually the crater where the cars of the victims are dumped, hence the unused fishing poles and toys. As they try to sleep, Pluto sneaks into the trailer, and finds Brenda. He muffles her screams when she awakens. Outside the trailer, Bobby wakes up Lynn and Doug, telling them about the people in the hills, and of Beauty's death. Suddenly, an explosion in the distance draws their attention. Discovering that Bob has been tied to a tree and set on fire, Doug runs into the trailer to fetch a fire extinguisher as Lizard slips inside unnoticed. Lizard rapes Brenda while Pluto investigates baby Catherine in her bed.

Lynn (Vinessa Shaw) is confronted by Lizard (Robert Joy).

Doug manages to put out the fire, and unties Bob, already dead, while Lynn returns to the trailer and is greeted by Lizard, holding baby Catherine and Big Bob's gun. After Lynn hits him with a frying pan, Lizard disarms her and threatens Catherine with the gun. He forces open Lynn's blouse, fondling and suckling the milk from her breasts. Ethel enters with a large flat rock, attempting to pulverize Lizard, but Pluto calls out to warn Lizard, and Lizard, spotting her, shoots her in the stomach. Lynn then uses a screwdriver and stabs Lizard, who then shoots her in the head. Pluto and Lizard flee the trailer.

Doug and Bobby return to the trailer, and realize that Catherine has been taken. Goggle (Ezra Buzzington), the mutant who killed Beauty, watches the trailer through binoculars, but he is attacked and killed by Beast. The next morning, Doug goes off in pursuit of their attackers; Beast leads Doug through a tunnel that contains the graves of miners. Once out of the tunnel, Doug finds an abandoned nuclear testing village and enters the house where Catherine is kept, but is knocked unconscious by Big Mama (Ivana Turchetto), who he thought was busy watching television. He then awakes in an icebox where the mutants keep the bodies of their victims. He panics and bangs on the plastic cover, eventually knocking it loose. He returns to his task of finding Catherine, only to encounter Big Brain, who tells him the story of the mutants, and then getting attacked by Pluto who breaks through a door, and after a fierce struggle, Doug is able to trick him. Pretending to cry, Pluto laughs and gets momentarily distracted, giving Doug time to slam a screwdriver through his foot and the floor, pinning him down. He then takes a small American flag and shoves it through the back of Pluto's throat, and finally finishes him by slamming the blade of his own axe into his head.

Doug then surprises the mutant Cyst outside the house and uses Pluto's axe to kill him, chopping his knee open and knocking him over the hood of a car, where he is axed in the back and is finally put out of his misery when Doug swings the pick end into his eye. Doug takes his shotgun and heads off. Big Brain tells Lizard to kill Catherine, but is killed by Beast. Lizard takes a cleaver and prepares to kill Catherine, but finds that instead of Catherine, it is a pig. Ruby has taken Catherine and run into the hills. Lizard knows this and begins to chase her, infuriated at her deceit. Doug sees Ruby on the hill and chases her as well.

At the trailer, Ethel's body is stolen and dragged into the hills, and Bobby finds Papa Jupiter eating Ethel's heart. Jupiter pursues Bobby to the trailer, where Brenda releases gas from the propane tanks as Bobby runs inside, attaching a strip of matches to the sliding door behind him. Bobby binds Papa Jupiter's hand to the window. After he and Brenda escape, Jupiter breaks free of the bungee cord, and opens the sliding door, which strikes the matches and ignites the gas inside the trailer, causing it to explode.

In the hills, Ruby is about to return Catherine to Doug when Lizard attacks. Doug beats and then shoots Lizard in the chest, neck, and finally the shoulder. Ruby gives Catherine back to Doug, who does not notice Lizard stand up, having survived. Ruby throws herself at Lizard, plunging them over a cliff, stopping Lizard from shooting Doug and Catherine. Bobby and Brenda walk through the ruins of their trailer and find Papa Jupiter still alive, though impaled. Brenda kills Papa Jupiter with a pickaxe to the head. Brenda then spots Doug with Catherine and Beast, and the four are reunited. As they celebrate their victory, a pair of anonymous binoculars watches from the hills.

Production

Wes Craven, director and writer of the original The Hills Have Eyes, began the idea of remaking the film when he saw the success of other horror remakes such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror. The search then began for filmmakers to helm the project. Marianne Maddalena, Craven's long time producing partner, came across Alexandre Aja and his art director/collaborator Grégory Levasseur who had previously made the French slasher film Haute Tension. After showing the film to Craven and the rest of the production crew, they were impressed with the pair. Craven comments that they "demonstrated a multi-faceted understanding of what is profoundly terrifying" and "After viewing the film and then meeting the film makers, I knew I wanted to work with them."[2] Aja and Levasseur then began to re-write the story in what is the pair's first American production.

Director Alexandre Aja and art director Grégory Levasseur chose not to film in the original's filming location of Victorville, California and instead scouted many locations for filming including Namibia, South Africa, New Mexico, and Mexico. The two settled on Ouarzazate in Morocco, which was also known as "the gateway to the Sahara Desert".[2]

The movie is set in New Mexico, and strongly implies that a large number of atmospheric nuclear weapon tests were performed in that state. In fact, the only atmospheric nuclear detonation in New Mexico was the Trinity test, the first test of a nuclear device conducted on July 16, 1945. The United States carried out most of its atmospheric nuclear weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site and in the Marshall Islands at the lagoons of Bikini and Eniwetok, between 1946 and 1962.

Prior to filming, Aja and Levasseur had already conceived an idea for the mutants' appearance. "We based all our descriptions and directions on real documents, pictures and footage that we found on the effects of nuclear fallout in Chernobyl and Hiroshima", explains Aja. In addition, Aja and Levasseur spend extensive time with local residents living in the filming location of Palmdale to further grasp an accurate depiction of what the mutants would look like. Aja stated "Our biggest form of inspiration for the look of the mutant creatures came when we went to a Pogues concert in Chicago and observed the people around us." The Hills Have Eyes utilized the K.N.B. EFX Group Inc. who had done previous work on films such as The Chronicles of Narnia (for which an Academy Award was nominated) and Sin City.

K.N.B. spent over six months designing the mutants, first using 3D designer tools, such as ZBrush, allowing them to use a computer to generate their sculptures. After prosthetics were made, they could be fitted to the actors before filming. Robert Joy, who plays the mutant Lizard, explained, "Every day, these amazing artists took more than three hours to transform me into something that could only be found in a nightmare."[2]

K.N.B. artist Gregory Nicotero was also made a cameo as Cyst, the mutant with the halo head-gear.

Jamison Goei and his team, who had done previous work on Hellraiser: Hellseeker and Halloween: Resurrection, had done over 130 visual effects for the film. A large part of that was digitally constructing the testing village, which in actuality was only one built street with others digitally added. The team also warped the mutant's faces slightly, which is shown mostly in the character of Ruby.

Papa Jupiter displays no deformities. However, as shown in "The Making Of", Papa Jupiter appears to have a large parasitic twin attached to his upper left torso. The young children of the film had their deformities added by CGI, with the exception of Ruby, who had a combination of CGI and makeup.

Casting

Doug Bukowski as portrayed by Aaron Stanford.

The casting process began with the selection of The Silence of the Lambs' Ted Levine as the character Big Bob. Levine was also a fan of the film Haute Tension. Afterwards, Kathleen Quinlan was cast as Ethel in her first role starring in a horror film (despite appearing in Twilight Zone: The Movie and Event Horizon). Next, Aaron Stanford was cast as Doug Bukowski who "undergoes the most radical transformation of anyone in the Carter family"[2] Stanford even asked not to see any of the mutants in make-up before his character's battle in the testing village so, that way, he'd be truly frightened. When casting Lynn, Doug's wife, Aja wanted to cast Vinessa Shaw whom he had wanted to work with since seeing her in Stanley Kubrick's 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut. Shaw was hesitant to play the role, but after watching Haute Tension, she agreed, explaining: "There was such an odd combination of beauty and terror, it felt almost like an art film. So, after meeting with Alex and Greg, I decided to do it."[2] For the role of Brenda, the filmmakers sought a young actress who had relatively little exposure and found it in Emilie de Ravin who was beginning her rise in the television series Lost. After de Ravin, Dan Byrd was cast as Bobby. Byrd had previous genre experience starring in 'Salem's Lot.

Aja then had the six actors arrive in the filming location of Morocco early to bond together.

When casting for the mutants, associate producer Cody Zwieg explained: "We needed to find actors who could not only perform the stunt work, handle the extensive makeup and perform in that makeup, but who truly could embody the fierce, primal nature of the mutants' way of life."[2] To play the role of Pluto, Aja looked to Michael Bailey Smith, who had been in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. For Lizard, the filmmakers cast Robert Joy, who had made previous genre films such as Amityville 3-D and George A. Romero's Land of the Dead. Ezra Buzzington, impressed with the filmmakers, agreed to play the role of Goggle and even watched a documentary about human cultures engaging in cannibalism. To play the mutant leader, Billy Drago was cast. Drago had previously had a role in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables and other horror features. The most difficult mutant to cast was Ruby, who was a "touch of sweetness to the madness of the mutants."[2] Laura Ortiz was ultimately cast, making her film debut.

Box office and reception

The Hills Have Eyes was a commercial success, playing in total 2,521 theaters and taking in its opening weekend $15,708,512.[3], earning back its $15,000,000 budget. The film grossed $41,778,863 in the United States Box Office[4] and $69,770,032 worldwide.[3] Critical reception was mixed with an average critic rating of 49% on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

The Washington Post said: "this remake of the alleged 1977 Wes Craven classic has one very disturbing quality: It's too damned good."[6] Some have gone on to refer to the film as torture porn.[7] Bloody Disgusting, however, was scathing of those who referred to it as such, saying "some may call it “Torture porn” - these people are idiots".[8] Roger Ebert went on to cite that the film should have focused more on the characters rather than the violence, saying "The Hills Have Eyes finds an intriguing setting in 'typical' fake towns built by the government [...] But its mutants are simply engines of destruction. There is a misshapen creature who coordinates attacks with a walkie-talkie; I would have liked to know more about him, but no luck."[9]

Soundtrack

See: The Hills Have Eyes (2006 Soundtrack)

References

External links








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