The Hills Have Eye's
Hey everybody, Joe here. Last Monday in the "Trailer Hitch" for Nightwatch I talked about how The Hills Have Eyes was just too freaky for me. I can't handle it. Deformity is not a substitute for horror. I'm such a punk when it comes to normal horror movies, how do you expect me to deal with mutant desert horror. I'm only a man! It just seemed like too much.
The one thing that had me debating going at all was that Hills stars Emilie de Ravin from LOST, who I like very much and is as cute as can be. In the trailer she's even wearing a bra tanning in the desert. Normally, that right there is enough for me to go see a movie, I decided though that it wasn't enough to make me overcome the fear of the nuclear sand people.
If it was a Lacey bra- maybe, but not one of those padded monstrosities. Might as well put her in one of those skirts that are really shorts. A scort. Disgusting.
I sort of half jokingly said that if anyone were willing to write a review I would draw a comic for it and post it up. Never did I expect to hear one word about it, but three very brave souls stepped up and offered their services. I was shocked and honored that anyone was interested at all. Even more so when the reviews they sent in were all top quality. These guys are obviously movie fans that love to (and know how to) talk about a movie.
So thank you so much to Ethan Jesse, and Alex (featured in the comic from left to right) for the hard work they put into this, including sitting through the freak fest. You're all braver than I. Enjoy.
By Jesse Henry Stanchak, a writer from Washington DC.
Hill Have Eyes
Viewed: 9:50pm 03/10/06
Starring: Aaron Stanford, Emilie de Ravin, Dan Byrd, Robert Joy
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Fox Searchlight: Official Site of the movie
The Hills Have Eyes is a remake of a 1977 Wes Craven flick of the same name. A family gets lost on a road trip through New Mexico. They become stranded in the desert and fall prey to a clan of murderous hill people who were horribly mutated by years of government atomic testing.
Before I saw movie, I was looking at the cast page and saw Emilie de Ravin (Claire from "Lost") was in it. I said to myself, "Oh, she's totally going to get raped by a man-child who looks like Sloth from The Goonies." Amazingly, I was right. And somehow that scene managed to be even less awesome than it sounds. That really sums up everything that's wrong with this movie. It's not just gross. It's predictably gross.
I called the death order nearly perfectly within the first five minutes of the film. I bet most people will too. It's really obvious who will survive and who won't, because the characters who are allowed to live are the ones with the smallest inklings of personality. Everyone else just sits around waiting to die. You can't really fault the actors for this one, though. Lines like "I'll take my bullets over your prayers any day," would sound every bit as lame if Charlton Heston were reading them? though at least that would have been funny.
There's plenty of death here and much of it is over the top and bloody, but for the most part it's not scary because the director doesn't understand the difference between being gross and being shocking. I'm not opposed to gore per se, but I demand that it be done in an interesting way, one that keeps me guessing. With one notable exception, that doesn't happen in "Hills."
Part of the problem is that I just don't care about the family. They aren't likable, or dislikable. There's not enough personality there to make me feel anything at all. The script has to resort to endangering an infant (who doesn't love babies?) to get me to feel something. And even then, I'm not terribly concerned for the baby, because I'm not really that afraid of the hill people. Much like the shark in Jaws, the hill folk are creepier when you can't see them. When they're finally shown in broad daylight, the makeup looks cheesy and the dialogue they're given ("ITS BREAKFAST TIME!!!") totally ruins whatever fright factor they had left.
Near the end, the script tries to get you to feel sorry for the hill people, by blaming their bloodlust on the atomic testing. That's a lost cause. In order for moral ambivalence to work dramatically, you have to make the audience identify heavily with one side or the other early on in the story. I was apathetic from frame one.
The creepiest part of Hills, is its atmosphere. The desert, the wasted atomic town and the piles of burnt mannequins are all way more unnerving than the blood and guts. The hill people's fondness for touching de Ravin's smooth skin while she's asleep is perhaps the films one genuinely upsetting moment, not because of the act itself, but because it makes you imagine what the hill people will do when she wakes up. Whatever you think of in that instant will certainly be scarier than the scene that follows.
It's tempting to scold the writer and director for exploiting people's fear of physical deformity and perpetuating the idea that ugly people must be monsters inside as well. But really, the movie isn't worth it. It doesn't mean enough or have enough weight to warrant that level of scrutiny. You're no more likely to be offended by this movie than you are to be scared. It's not edgy; it's lazy. Rating: 3 out of 10
DVD worthy?: Do you like looking at deformities? Do you secretly have a Sloth fetish? No? Me Either. Pass.
If you liked this movie check out: Freaks (1932)
It's not a horror movie in the same sense, definitely not a slasher picture, but its one of the most brazen treatments of "the dread of difference" on film. This is another "revenge of the unusual people," story, in which a beautiful trapeze artist and her handsome lover plot to seduce, marry and then kill a circus midget for his money. When the plot is uncovered, the midget bands together with the other circus "freaks" to get his revenge. This movie does pretty much everything Hills wanted to do. We're shown actual circus performers (no cheesy makeup here!) who are actually quite sympathetic, asserting themselves against a pair of lovely monsters. If the idea of Hills appeals to you, then you can consider this that idea's realization. It's not gory of course (it was made in the thirties, c'mon) but it still pushes the envelope in many ways- it's the rare film that's willing to concede that we can be afraid of more than just a body count.
Trailer Hitch: The Omen I can't decide if having the trailer for the remake of The Omen focus on the fact that the movie comes out on June 6, 2006 (6-6-6, get it?) is a brilliant piece of marketing, or a sure sign that there's not a single frame of that movie worth being shown to audiences ahead of time.
By Ethan Warren, a college sophomore originally from Boston.
The Hills Have Eyes
Viewed: 7:20 03/10/06
Starring: Aaron Stanford, Dan Byrd, Emilie de Ravin
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
A few years ago we got ?The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.' Last year there was ?The Amityville Horror.' The last few months have given us ?The Fog' and ?When a Stranger Calls.' And now comes ?The Hills Have Eyes,' the latest in what is quickly becoming one of the most overcrowded, unnecessary genres in film: the horror remake.
?The Hills Have Eyes' has an advantage over at least ?Chainsaw' and ?Amityville' in that most people, outside of hardcore horror fans, are probably unaware that this is even a remake, and those who DO know of the original have most likely not bothered to see it. I have to count myself in that latter category; I vaguely knew of the original but was never remotely inclined to check it out. Then came the avalanche of advertising that the remake had behind it, along with a genuinely creepy trailer and some pretty good advance buzz, and I decided this was worth my $7 and two hours of my Friday night.
To put it bluntly: I was wrong.
I'll get to why in a minute. First, the plot: after a brief and disturbingly unfrightening prologue, we meet the Carters, the quintessential American family off on a family roadtrip. One bad shortcut and four blown tires later, the Carters are stranded in the middle of the New Mexico desert and it's not long before they're being hunted by a family of horribly mutated victims of nuclear testing. The blood flows fast and heavy, and it's a good idea not to get too attached to any characters on either side.
You don't go into a movie like this for an innovative plot. There was a small part of me that held out hope that maybe, just maybe, this one would finally break the rules of the slasher genre and give me something new and exciting. But no, you can see most every plot point coming from a few miles away (I know it's an old point, but when will characters in horror movies stop wandering off alone? The Carters LOVE to wander away, even after members of the family start dying, they can't stop feeding their insatiable desire to walk off into the desert alone). When a plot offers so few surprises, the important thing becomes waiting to see how the people behind it will play with the conventions of the genre and what little ways they'll find to surprise us along the way.
The main twist here is the character transformation that the Carters undergo. Most victims in a slasher movie are mainly interested in running and screaming. The problem for the Carters is that there's really nowhere to run, so they're forced to deal with the problem head-on, and the movie becomes sort of an exploration of what normal people will become when they're pushed too far.
I say "sort of becomes" because I feel like a better movie would deal with this theme in a more interesting way. Essentially, the story calls for the hunters to become the hunted as the Carters fight back against the mutants in a series of extravagantly violent attacks that make up the movies last third. However, the writers don't really go all out with this scenario?they want us to remain sympathetic to the Carters, so rather than having the attacks be motivated by revenge, the Carters are fighting to rescue a family member taken hostage. This attempt to keep our heroes "good" undermines the potential for true darkness that a different movie might exploit. To see the remaining Carters become monsters themselves and keep mercilessly attacking the mutants even after their own safety is ensured? That story would pack a more interesting wallop than is provided here.
The main thing that I can't get over is the movie's issues with tone. Director Alexandre Aja obviously hoped to provide us with a slow build in tension and suspense through the first act. Someone needs to mention to Mr. Aja that there's a difference between building tension and boring. The first act mostly consists of the family stranded in the desert with an occasional shaky POV shot to remind us that they're not alone. Rather than slowly mounting the suspense as the attackers, say, got closer and closer, Mr. Aja simply establishes the setting early on and then allows it to essentially sit still for around half an hour.
Then, all of a sudden, the movie explodes. Everywhere. After the dull first act, the first attack finally happens and it's the most gruesome, disturbing, full throttle INTENSE thing I've seen on screen in a long long time. Within a few minutes, a girl is raped by two mutants, a gun gets pointed in a baby's face while its mother is molested, and it just keeps coming. This scene is executed with such horrifying speed and absolute disregard for the audience's comfort level that I was legitimately horrified. It's been a long time since a horror movie horrified me. It was a tremendously unpleasant experience, but I at least suddenly had some hope that maybe I was finally getting to see a horror movie that wouldn't wuss out on me.
Then comes the last act, and it's essentially business as usual. We're back to the more predictable chases and interminable fights with unnaturally resilient villains that are more typical of modern horror. The scares were replaced by the shock and disgust that directors seem to confuse with horror at this point. Without psychological drama, it's way too easy for blood to just be blood. Example A: ?The Hills Have Eyes.'
What confused me the most is what kind of impact the movie wanted to have. It had the stink of nuclear paranoia all over it, and given that the original was released in 1977 that makes good sense. But nuclear testing has been over for a long time, and so I'm confused as to whether I'm supposed to be outraged that our government "made" these mutants, somehow sympathetic for them, when the drama of nuclear terror is so much less prevalent today than it was 30 years ago. There are a few other times that the movie hints at some sort of deeper significance (given that the director is French, I can't help wondering whether or not there's supposed to be some irony in the fact that the American flag is used as a weapon not just once but twice) but it never really commits to exploring any of these themes and we're left with a very straight story.
I'll credit the makeup department with creating very believable and very scary mutants. There's something weird about physical deformity being a source of horror, but the mutants have the villainy to make us scared regardless of appearance, the makeup really is more about the immediate, visceral impact, and after that we get onto the essential psychotic nature of the bad guys. And there's even one sympathetic mutant, which is actually a surprisingly effective tool for making us think twice about being scared just because a character is horribly disfigured.
There are a few brief moments in the very end of the movie where there's the tantalizing hint that maybe this is all just a parody of horror. After a climactic battle against the main mutant, one of the characters is framed against to look like a towering giant while triumphant, deliciously melodramatic music plays for way too long. Sadly there are only a few moments like that to be found, and that's not enough to convince me the director was in on the joke. Not to mention the fact that the ending takes open-ended to an obnoxious new level. I don't want to spoil anything here, but I'll say that the ending doesn't resolve?basically, anything at all. You think maybe it has, but then there's a last shot revealing that this story is nowhere near over?and then the credits roll. I'm all for there being room for a sequel, but this ending pushes the limits.
Rating: 4 out of 10
There's about ten minutes in the middle where this is a symphony of terror that goes balls to the wall and takes the audience to very dark places. But that leaves 97 minutes of underwhelming, by-the-books "horror." I'm still waiting for a horror movie that really goes against the clich?s and surprises me. Heck, I'd even settle for one that scares me the whole way through with some nice mounting fear and a few well placed huge scares (Kubrick's ?The Shining' is my gold standard for horror in all those departments). Sadly, ?The Hills Have Eyes' ain't it. It had the potential, but it all came to not much. I was tempted to give it 3 points, but awarded it that 4th for just how gruesome and disturbing that ten minutes in the middle is. If only they'd stayed on that course.
DVD worthy?: A big fat "no" on that one. I don't even want to see the original, which I'm kind of curious about for comparison's sake, just because I can't stand the idea of sitting through this story again. You'd have to basically give it to me for free to get this into my DVD collection.
If you liked this movie, check out: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
I'm referring here to the remake, the only one I've seen, and it makes a good companion piece to ?The Hills Have Eyes.' They deal with very similar situations (group of people lost and far from civilization, hunted by a family of freaks) but in very different locales. Honestly, I feel like the two movies are almost chapters in a series, and would make a nice DVD package.
What sets ?Texas Chainsaw' apart is the real iconic villain. Leatherface is one of the giants of movie horror. He's an image you don't forget and he's managed to sort of seep into the public consciousness. ?The Hills Have Eyes' needed a character like that, a main villain that we could recognize and root against. Instead, we have to make do with the villainy being shared among five or six main bad guys and we never get to really become attached to any of them. The movie loses a lot of impact there. There's no drama to a nameless, barely distinguishable freak getting a pickaxe to the face. Leatherface has the name, the personality (such as it is), and the screen time. While ?Texas Chainsaw' lacks the gut impact of ?Hills,' it'll be remembered long after ?Hills' has sunk back into oblivion, and it's because of Leatherface.
Trailer Hitch: The Omen
This trailer sort of hopes for the whole "Less is more" effect, panning across an empty yard and coming to rest on a little boy sitting on a swing and smiling in what I'm sure was supposed to be a creepy way. The problem here is that the producers assume we're familiar with the whole Omen mythology, and since the two friends I was at the movies with did not, I know first hand that people who don't know the story find a kid sitting on a swing pretty underwhelming, and a little bit funny. It doesn't help that they don't even tell us the movie's TITLE at the end of the trailer, or say "Omen" anywhere onscreen. If they'd made some effort to get the whole "Omen" thing across, people might at least have recognized the brand name. As is, they just put a whole lot of faith in the audience's recognition of?well, I don't even know what, little kids in red coats on swings maybe? It's a teaser that doesn't tease.
The Hills Have Eyes
When you walk into a horror movie you expect a few things. Low amounts of plot, quick and crazy killings and unrealistic character development. Unfortunately in Hills they spend a ridiculous amount of time showing you the family, making you wait an agonizingly long time for them to start biting the dust one by one. Other than that, I must say this movie was surprisingly good.
The amount of gore is surprising, but I guess that comes with the big budget of this remake. They managed to capture the feeling of the original and actually make it superior to the original (a rare feat I must say).
The Carter family are driving through the New Mexico desert. New Mexico has been home to hundreds of nuclear testing and one family unwilling to leave stayed and was exposed to the radioactive effects. Run from the mutant-angry-hillbillies! After a lousy detour they end up stranded in the desert. Nice work! Luckily for us the butchering starts. The purists will be appalled, and even the most gore loving us may feel a little disturbed, but there's nothing like seeing a dog splayed from neck to tail.
Although this movie isn't about to win any awards it certainly does have its merit. I can't recall the last time I went into a theater and actually left amused and entertained! 7 out of 10.
Hey, Joe again. Just because I'm not writing the reviews doesn't mean the vote incentives stop. Vote to see a drawing of a baby Hulk. If a lifetimes worth of comic books has taught me anything it's that there should have been a whole family of them out there.
I loved that they all picked the teaser trailer for The Omen. It's a good trailer to compliment Hills. I saw the trailer before Ultraviolet last week and was a little disturbed by it. Kids are weird. As a teaser it works in that you expect something to happen. You expect the kid to breath fire or for the little dog to jump up at the camera. But it doesn't happen, and you end up feeling like a fool. Any trailer that makes you feel like a fool sucks in my book!
Another huge big thanks to these guys for stepping up and offering their thoughts. It means so much to me personally and I owe each of you big time. If anyone out there is sorry you missed out on this mini-event, let me know. Depending on how well this is received I'm considering making it a semi-regular thing. Maybe quarterly or bi-monthly. There's a ton of movies out there, and I can't possibly see them all.
Plus I really love the community aspect of this. JLCM is always so one sided, I strongly believe it's important to know what other people are thinking. Sometimes an extra couple of reviews can really open your mind.
Thanks for reading everyone. See you tomorrow.
Joe – The creator of the strip who has embraced giving crappy movies the chance they deserve. Like the majority of the cast he’s obsessed with boobs.
First Appearance - The Introduction
Yeo – Yeo is Joe’s wife and often the voice of reason in the strip. Having her act rational allows the rest of the cast to embrace being in a comic strip which primarily involves randomly punching people, interacting with fictional characters and talking about boobs. Yeo is smart, beautiful and way too good for Joe. Don’t tip her off.
First Appearance - Fever Pitch
Irv – Joe’s movie-going sidekick who’s always down for watching Jason Statham crescent moon kick some thug through a plate glass window and getting some drinks before after and during a Vin Diesel movie. Like the majority of the cast he’s obsessed with boobs.
First Appearance - Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
Agent 337 George Jones – A government Agent that took over for Joe after he was bad-mouthing President Bush in the V for Vendetta strip. George ran the show for over a month bring a much needed sense of patriotism and justice to both the strips and reviews. He eventually got too attached to his work, empathizing with Joe’s plight to give crappy movies a fair shake. In a way he came to love crappy movies as well and was pushed out of the position. He spiraled out of control and ended up in prison. His adventures will be told in the limited series JLCM Presents: 337 Locked Up which is set to début Christmas of 09.
First Appearance - V for Vendetta
Other Notable Appearances: Stay Alive, Ice age 2, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Slither, Here Comes Guest week, Let’s Go To Prison
Leonidas – The former king of Sparta who has traveled into the future and is having trouble coping with the modern times. Yelling loudly and kicking people into giant holes doesn’t really work the same way it did in the olden days. As time as gone by he’s adjusted but it’s a safe bet that he’s always one bad message away from throwing a spear through someone.
First Appearance - 300
Other Notable Appearances: Four Brothers, Strip# 300, The Golden Compass, Rambo, Untraceable, The Ladies of Max Paybe
Palpatine – Former Senator, Emperor of the Galactic Empire, Sith Lord... He shows up in the Joe Loves Crappy movies galaxy on occasion to let people know that they’re being stupid. No one’s really sure how he shows up in this universe but chances are it breaks all kinds of copywrite laws.
First Appearance - Episode III: The Dark Side
Other Notable Appearances: Four Brothers, Night Watch, Saw 3, Are We Done Yet
Slow Billy – Billy is a sweet kid but he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. If you’re watching him for the day be prepared to explain to him the plot of the movie or how popcorn works or, not so much where babies come from, but what babies are. He’s a complete moron.
First Appearance - Four Brothers
Other Notable Appearances: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Da Vinci Code, Vantage Point, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Kyle the Movie Snob – Be careful what fun facts about movies you tell your friends at a friendly gathering or in line for the latest blockbuster, because if you’re even slightly wrong, Kyle will be more than happy to let you know. He usually gets what’s coming to him though. Poor guy has cracked three ribs since joining the JLCM cast.
First Appearance - Ultraviolet
Other Notable Appearances: 16 Blocks, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Transformers, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Jean-Luc Picard – Another lawsuit waiting to happen is Jean Luc Picard who, towards the end of the strip’s first year, became the go-to background character. If there was ever a seat to fill or a random person to place wandering around in the background, nine times out of ten it was Picard. While Picard has crossed paths with Irv he and Joe have never met. Perhaps they will some day but for now just can an eye on the background.
First Appearance - The Producers
Other Notable Appearances: I’m not telling you, that’s no fun. It’ like Where’s Waldo – go find him!
Ice Cream Sandwich – Delicious and… deadly? Usually when you see someone eating an Ice Cream sandwich, someone else is experiencing a substantial amount of pain. Still, how nice is an ice cream sandwich on a hot summer day?
First Appearance - Saw IV
Other Notable Appearances: Bee Movie, Run Fatboy Run, Saw V