The Hills Have Eyes was released in 1977. I originally saw the movie as a teenager when it was running at the Commodore Theater, located on Western Ave in Chicago. The movie rating system was still fairly new back then, and considering the fact that the owners of the Commodore only charged seventy five cents at the door, they generally didn’t really care about the rating system or the age of the customer. In fact, thanks to the Commodore’s lax policies (and I’m totally grateful) I got to see many other 70’s horror thrillers at the Commodore, including movies such as Don’t Look in The Basement, Last House on the Left, The Exorcist, Deranged AND of course The Hills Have Eyes.
The Hills Have Eyes is one of the movies that set the new norm in Hollywood. Produced by the famed late director Wes Craven, this new norm ratchet’s up open violence and fear on the big screen, by mixing up a normal day with a normal family vacation. Then throwing in a vicious attack somewhere in the American Southwestern desert. The family is stalked and attacked by a group of back country feral people.
In the 1970’s a new type of recreational vehicle hit the market. This new vehicle was called a camping trailer. The camping trailer or camper was home away from home. And was just that. A home on wheels pulled by a car. It had all the creature comforts that one might want. A kitchen, a refrigerator, a shower, three bedrooms and in the case of the Hill’s Have Eyes, the car and camper had the ability to travel to places where sheer terror awaited its unsuspecting passengers.
The story begins with a family who travels through the desert on their way to California… And go figure… They decide to drive into an out of the way part of the desert and crash their vehicle and camper. The vehicle break down leaves them vulnerable to the evil that lurks in the desert. They suddenly fall prey to a group of cannibalistic feral people who attack their small camp and start raping and killing family members. But after being overwhelmed by the attackers. The family fights back to save a child and to protect the remainder of their family.
The Hills Have Eyes is not for the faint of heart. And Wes Craven’s gritty style of film making brings out the dark side of human nature in all of his characters. The Hills Have Eyes reminds me of Sam Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch with its’s desert background and the intensity of his actors portrayal of their characters. Though the movie refrains from serious violence and bloody scenes, and it leaves much of the inference of violence to the mind of the viewer. Which places the Hill’s Have Eyes very high on my list of classic horror. I also liked the fact Craven empowered the victims in this script to fight back against the evil that assailed them in the desert. This early example of Wes Cravens work is worth seeing and , who knows in the perhaps in the future, Wes Cravens work in the 1970s will be considered as important as Tod Browning’s movies from the 1930’s