Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Hills have Thighs

What are you looking at freak? What? Never tried uranium before?

So even though I'm not usually into movies that will make me feel uneasy -I like CSI but usually lose track of the plot, I didn't like the Exorcist, [I know, sorry]. I usually stick to comedy or feel good movies but instead my friends dragged me into see the horror The Hills have Eyes. I didn't realize it was a remake at the time, but apparently there are several sequels of this originally done by Wes Craven with variations on the theme.

The main premise is that an American family on vacation ventures out to see the desert but they get side-tracked by a whacked out gas station attendant, whose untrustworthy advice leads them into the snares of a band of mutant thugs who steal, rape and kill. From there, the "lucky ones die first" -movie tagline

The movie begins with some beautiful/terrible shots of nuclear bombs exploding, black and white footage of trees being blown apart, interspersed with quick images of deformed babies. I thought it was quite artistic and fitting. It sent a message about nuclear proliferation to say the least. Every time it switched to the mutant shots of babies with swollen heads squeezed against the sides of a display jar, a crackly, loud noise feels like it's scratching the insides of our ears out (or at least that's how it felt in the movie theatre where the sound was turned up a few decibels higher than a physician would tell you is reasonable). I found this opening beautiful and disturbing at the same time. A fitting and thought-provoking intro.

The first scene is the grab-you-by-the-balls opener where government researchers are walking around in the desert in white protective suits (for the radiation) using some kind of metre (more crackling) and tongs to gather samples from the nuclear test site. You don't see what attacks them but they are brutally slaughtered with an axe faster than they can climb up a rock or say "hi". Then you see them chained behind a pickup truck, dead bleeding bodies dragging away.

It takes some time to get into the movie before the characters are even introduced or you know what the heck is going on. The gas station attendant is a hick living in his shack. When something stirs up his curiosity, he goes to investigate with his shotgun, but then when he can't find anything, he whines "I can't do this no more!" He comes back to his shack and finds a duffel bag full of chains, wallets, and among other things, a severed ear. His reaction is not of shock, just of mild disgust and exasperation. Obviously there is something strange in this neighborhood, and he's part of it.

There are lots of false alarms and shocks which kind of annoyed me, but they made me jump after all. I said to myself: these are the ingredients of a horror movie, B. Then, finally, you meet the family who stops at the station for some gas and some directions. There are the older parents, the newlyweds -a democrat cellphone salesman who is off-set by the macho republican father of the bride and the two younger kids -the cute superficial teenage girl and her rascal younger brother. The family is obviously from the city and they can't get over how cooky the desert seems, with all it's rolling tumbleweeds and rusty cars, whiskey bottles and accumulated junk. The father obviously thinks of this as a cute holiday never stopping from being proud of himself, and although the mother isn't so keen, they vicariously relive their honeymoon through the newlyweds who are off to a patchy start with the fussiness over their baby and the competition of the father and son-in-law.

So, since the father wants to show off to his new family he decides to follow the gas station attendant's directions "just follow that dirt road"...Bad move. Never trust a sketchy sun-burned man who smokes a cigar while operating a gas pump. Well, they aren't driving for long when the audience sees what they don't see -something mysterious pulled out on the road causing their tires to blow and the resulting crash. What are they going to do now?

Well, I won't ruin the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, but the movie goes into a campy horror flick once each family member splits up to find the best solution to getting out of the desert...When there is no way out of the desert. After the initial shocks -being confronted by some pretty mean miners with pick axes who stalk them with binoculars, gripping scenes featuring the best of the grotesque, the pushover cellphone salesman turns meat-eating hunk in a vengeful fit, setting out to confront his attackers, who have stolen off with his baby.

What I liked about this movie was that it followed many of the rules of a normal horror movie yet had so many reversals. The villains were visually a cross between corpses, Jason and aliens, and they acted like zombies or vampires. This picture is a good example. The family is quite nice too despite their annoying human qualities, their hubris, so you feel for them. When you think the plot can't get worse, it does quite well. There are some funny parts where it's so bad it's good and the plot introduces some distastefully vile things that make horror movies better, if that's what you're into.

Some key highlights were


  • The mutant girl who's face is totally messed up but who my friend and I joked was nevertheless "kinda hot". She is sympathetic to their cause, destabilizing the idea that the nuclear mutants are all inherently evil.
  • The hints at the interesting history of the miners who refused to leave the mines after the site became a government conspiracy/nuclear test site.
  • The part when the cellphone salesman creeps into a room where a nuclear mutant who is restricted to a wheelchair is wheezing and singing "Star Spangled Banner". He later stabs a mutant through the neck with an American flag.
  • When the brother and sister rig the trailer with propane tanks and matches placed on sandpaper attached to the door so that it will blow up when the mutant opens it.
  • The fact that by the end of the movie, the main character has been axed, had fingers cut off, had his head beaten against the ground, been stuck in a box with other hacked up corpses, escaped, thrown through a window and is completely caked with blood by the time it is over.
  • That the movie finishes from the perspective of a telescope, watching the characters, presuming themselves to be victorious.

It's worth it to watch these kinds of movies once in awhile and revel in the baser appetites. It is morbid and disgusting, but then it makes you feel better about yourself via catharsis. My friend had just been losing his cool about someone who made him so angry that he was in the perfect mood to see others slaughtered. My suggestion for anyone who wants to harm others: watch this movie instead.

Filed under Movie Reviews

9 Comments:

Blogger Prmod Bafna said...

Hmmm..! what an extensive review..! i've just got to watch it now :p

2:48 AM  
Blogger toobusyliving said...

I'm scared. Hold me.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Maddy said...

i'm in a displaced mood
so perhaps i will see this
the ending sounds as if it was
shot well...

8:21 AM  
Blogger your judgemental aunt said...

The burning dad / daughter rape was a bit too hardball for me but I did like the scene when the cell phone guy was in the box of body parts.

11:40 AM  
Blogger gina said...

thanks for the review-yikes!!

8:29 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

Came from Kunstemæcker's link...and think I should say 'Hi'

8:34 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I might go tonight...I'm in the mood for a good slasher movie.

4:11 PM  
Blogger toobusyliving said...

New Blog Theme Day

My idea - Childhood Trauma Tuesday. Everyone can participate, and, unlike that night in grade 5 with the poorly chosen babysitter, you get to keep all of your clothes on. Spread the word and let me know.

9:38 PM  
Blogger sirbarrett said...

prmod bafna -Go to it!

toobusyliving -Close your eyes. Nothing bad will happen.

maddy -Yes, some things were surprisingly good. I wouldn't say this was my favorite movie, but it was one of the better horror movies I've seen.

your judgemental aunt -Yeah, those parts made me a little too depressed and I didn't enjoy it. The boxed in with dead parts scene was better because I knew things were starting to turn around.

gina -You're not scared are you?

jane -hi Jane. What's the alt keycode for that a and e stuck together? Does his name mean "art creator"?

jimmy -Did you go? How did you like it?

too busy living -That's a decent idea. I will let others know. I'm sure it's bound to bring up some interesting memories and disclosures.

2:29 PM  

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