The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
By: J.R. McNamara on October 31, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 89 minutes
The Movie
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve, Janus Blythe, Michael Berryman
Screenplay:Wes Craven
Country: USA
Director Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes is loosely based on the legend of the Sawney Beane family, a group of incestuous cannibals who attacked those traveling through Scotland's East Lothian County in the 1400s. They were so vicious they would completely consume everything living in any road party: driver, passengers, women, and children, even dogs and horses, pickling and drying any meat they could not finish. Their actions became so notorious that King James I of Scotland ordered them to be hunted down, and when finally captured, they were deemed insane, and executed without trial. The men of the family, of which there were nine, including Sawney himself, had their hands and legs amputated, and were then left to bleed to death, and the women and children, now numbering 39, were burnt alive in several large fires. Craven took the idea of a wild family of cannibals and adapted it to a modern setting (the seventies anyway) and moved the family from the Scottish coast to an abandoned road running through a desert. This story is an exploration of just how much pressure it takes for a civilized person to be reduced to a violent primitive state in self defense.

The Hills Have Eyes tells the story of a good old American extended family, the Carters (Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Russ Grieve and Virginia Vincent) and the Woods (Martin Speer and Dee Wallace) who are making their way to California. On the way they have an accident in the desert, and as night falls are descended upon by a group of inbred cannibals (Michael Berryman, Lance Gordon, James Whitworth, Janus Blythe, Cordy Clarke and Arthur King aka Peter Locke, producer). Slowly the family members are picked off until finally, they decide to fight back…

In region 4, Umbrella entertainment is probably the horror fans best friend. With cult classics like this, The Hills Have Eyes and the rest of their catalogue, Umbrella keep showing they respect the genre and seem to be committed to getting previously unreleased or banned, or even just unedited cuts of films available for the R4 consumer. This film has been treated with the respect it deserves and this 2 disc set in wonderful, with a great array of extras, some of which were lifted from the Anchor Bay release. The Hills Have Eyes was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Horror Actor (Michael Berryman) in 1978 by the Academy for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films USA and Wes Craven was nominated and won the 1978 Prize of International Critics' Jury at the Catalonian International Film Festival in Spain.
The picture quality is pretty good, but is obviously a film of the seventies. The Hills Have Eyes is presented in a 16:9 widescreen transfer.
There is the option of watching this film in either 5.1 or 2.0, both of which are perfectly clear.
Extra Features
Disc 1: The Audio Commentary is with Wes Craven and Peter Locke. There are some really great recollections by the two, who more than once appear to be surprised at what they can remember. Some of the stories are repeated in the Looking Back at the Hills Have Eyes documentary, but are great anyway.

There are the US and German trailers for the film.

There are also trailers for other Umbrella releases: The American Nightmare, Zombie Holocaust, Zombie Flesh Eaters and Eaten Alive

Disc 2: Looking Back on the Hills Have Eyes is an excellent new documentary with interviews with many associated with the film. Filmed in 2003, this doco has brand new interviews with writer/ director Wes Craven, producer Peter Locke, actors Michael Berryman (Pluto), Dee Wallace (Lynne Wood), Janus Blythe (Ruby), Robert Houston (Bobby Carter), Susan Lanier (Brenda Carter) and DP Eric Saarinen. Any fans of Hills Have Eyes will really enjoy this retrospective documentary.

Alternate Ending is just that, taking place in the final moments of the film.

TV Spots has four advertisements for The Hills Have Eyes.

Stills and Poster Gallery are a series of behind the scenes photos and posters for the movie.

Storyboard Art is a series of storyboards for the Hills Have Eyes, although on in this feature the original title of Blood Relations is shown..

Horror Trailers contains for other Umbrella releases: Dawn of the Dead, Suspiria, Last House on the Left and Maniac.
The Verdict
Most directors have one film that defines them, but there are a few who are defined by several. Wes Craven is one of these. The Hills Have Eyes, along with Last House on the Left and A Nightmare on Elm Street have left such a powerful stain on the movie experience that all of them are necessary viewing, not just by the horror fan, but the cinema lover in general. This two disc set of The Hills Have Eyes is an indispensable element in any horror collection. Next time you leave your house, make sure you return with this film.
Movie Score
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