This remake brings Wes Craven’s genre-defining 1977 horror classic The Hills Have Eyes up to date for the iPod generation. Under Craven’s auspices, young director Alexandre Aja gives us an all-American family, including tech-geek son-in-law Doug (Aaron Stanford) and former hippy-chick Mom, Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), all terrorised by blood-thirsty mutants in the desert during an extended road trip. Gut-wrenching violence and well-handled suspense will have you squirming, despite a reliance on what have become, since ’77, stock horror clichés.
True to the original, Aja pares down filmmaking to its essentials, racheting up the fear factor by means of gritty, low-budget realism. Stuck in the empty western American desert in their trailer-homes, the Carters don’t realise that they’re being watched by a clan of genetic mutants, the descendents of miners poisoned by government nuclear testing. Suspense is built, piece by aching piece, until the mutants attack - swiping a baby granddaughter - and the Carters fight for their lives.
"CREEPING PSYCHOLOGICAL BREAKDOWN"
Really, then, this is a movie full of the particular joys and limitations of its genre. The underlying political message - that messing with nukes will come back to haunt us - is rammed home hard, while teenagers Bobby (Dan Byrd) and Brenda (Emilie De Ravin) prove enjoyably adept at hamming up their creeping psychological breakdown. By the halfway point you’re inwardly screaming at everyone to look behind them. Is it really possible to shoot at a mutant seven times and still miss? It is in a horror film, and that, it seems, is good enough for The Hills Have Eyes.