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Close your ‘Eyes’: Remake scarily original

Observer Scene | Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Horror movies typically have one purpose – to absolutely terrify the audience. The really good ones also punch with a bit of social commentary, which are all the more frightening because of their real-life implications. “The Hills Have Eyes” tells the story of a typical American family taking a trip through the desert when they are attacked by a family of mutants living in the mountains after its life was destroyed by atmospheric nuclear testing. For avid horror movie fans, “The Hills Have Eyes” is a must-see. For all others, “The Hills Have Eyes” is a should-see, but be prepared to duck and cover.

“The Hills Have Eyes” is a remake of the 1977 Wes Craven drive-in shocker. Alexandre Aja, who made his international debut a few months back with “High Tension,” directed and wrote the script for the new version. Not one to be kept out of the horror scene, Craven also served as the film’s producer.

The film opens with a montage of nuclear testing clips, interspersed with newspaper articles and pictures of mutant babies, which form the basis of the movie. During the 1940s and 50s there was atmospheric nuclear testing in the New Mexico desert and the government asked all the miners to leave. When they refused to leave, the weapons were detonated and thus the mutants were created. Because of the actions of the government, the mutants hate everyone and actively seek revenge on anyone who crosses their path. Subsequently, they also became cannibals.

Enter the Bukowski-Carter family, taking a family road trip through the New Mexico desert. After stopping to get gas at a creepy dirty station, a creepy dirty man tells them he knows a short-cut. “Big Bob” the retired cop and head of the family (Ted Levine, television’s “Monk”), decides to take the short-cut where they consequently have their tires blown out, leaving them stranded in the middle of the desert, and out of cell-phone/CB radio range. Big Bob decides to go back to the gas station, while his nerdy, Democratic son-in-law Doug Bukowski (Aaron Stanford, of Pyro fame from “X2”) decides to look for help in the other direction.

The rest of the family, including “Lost’s” Emilie de Ravin, tries to make the best of a poor situation and camp out. One of the two dogs, named Beauty and Beast, runs off and is gutted – paving the way for the rest of the family. In a very graphic 20-minute span, members of the family are burned alive, raped, tortured, shot and hacked, which all ends with the kidnapping of the baby. The three remaining family members are left to survive and attempt to find a way to get the baby back.

Although Craven did a better job in the ’77 version, there is a level of sympathy felt for the mutants. These mutants are the children of the miners who did not leave, so to a certain extent they did not choose to be this way and are also validated in their anger. There is also Ruby, the little mutant girl who helps the stranded people on numerous occasions. At the same time, the audience also feels for the family, which is innocent in the matter. It’s hard not to cheer on the techno-geek as he fights, hacks, and impales a mutant with an American flag in order to get his baby back.

Even though the movie is thought-provoking at times, it is certainly not easy to stomach. Even though the most gruesome parts were cut out to receive the R-rating, Aja is a master at creating new and horrifying scenes. It is highly recommended not to eat popcorn or have a beverage when viewing this flick.