The Hills Have Eyes – Review (Arrow Video Blu-ray)
The Hills Have Eyes was Wes Craven’s second directorial film after The Last House on the Left (I’m not counting his stint as Abe Snake directing The Fireworks Woman). Much like The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes has a gritty, low-budget, violent look, having been shot on 16mm film. Given the budget of approximately $230,000, Wes Craven was able to craft a violent, sometimes humorous horror film that to this day is still quite popular among the horror crowd. The film has gone on to spawn a few sequels and a couple actual good remakes, however, we are not here to talk about those. Instead, we are going to focus on the first film only, as Arrow Video has gone above and beyond in releasing an absolutely stunning Blu-ray release. Read on to see why…
DISCS: 1 RUN-TIME: 90 min ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1 RESOLUTION: 1080p AUDIO: LPCM Mono LANGUAGE: English SUBTITLES: English SDH REGION: A,B RATING: NR PRODUCTION DATE: 1977 RELEASE DATE: Oct 11, 2016
THE LUCKY ONES DIED FIRST… Horror master Wes Craven achieved critical and commercial success with the likes of Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street – but for many genre fans, the director’s seminal 1977 effort The Hills Have Eyes remains his masterpiece. Taking a detour whilst on route to Los Angeles, the Carter family run into trouble when their campervan breaks down in the middle of the desert. Stranded, the family find themselves at the mercy of a group of monstrous cannibals lurking in the surrounding hills. With their lives under threat, the Carters are forced to fight back by any means necessary. As gruelling a viewing experience today as it was upon initial release, The Hills Have Eyes stands alongside the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead as one of the defining moments in American horror cinema.
I remember the first time sitting down with The Hills Have Eyes and not really appreciating the film. I laughed at some of the sketchy acting and the often times hilarious low-budget look of the film. I was a naive, stupid boy back then and nowadays I can appreciate a film better. Instead of laughing at the acting, I accept it as a product of its time. The low-budget look of the film no longer seems terrible, but impressive given the actual budget. This time around, I fell in love with the film, much in thanks to Arrow Video’s amazing work on fixing up the transfer, which I will get to in a bit.
The story behind The Hills Have Eyes is a fairly simple one. A family on a trip to California, take a detour through the desert to visit an old silver mine. Unbeknownst to them, the area they are travelling through was a nuclear testing ground, that has spawned a family of savages in the hills. After getting run off the road by a feisty rabbit, the family gets stuck in the desert, right across from the hill people’s home.
After the group split up (of course!), the hill people advance and start the rampage in their quest for a juicy meal (a nice baby for example). Thankfully, the family has some kickass dogs to help protect them. Also, Martin Speers deadly moustache.
The Hills Have Eyes takes a bit to get going, but once it starts it doesn’t stop. There are plenty of moments of heart-pumping terror, especially for anyone who has a child. There are a few areas that may put you off. One character’s incessant screaming will drive you to the point of yelling at the screen to shut up. Also, the ending is somewhat abrupt, but in a way, suits the film. On the other hand, the alternate ending, included on the Blu-ray, rearranges the scenes at end and tacks on a happy ending that doesn’t fit the tone of the movie.
Arrow Video doesn’t just knock the ball out of the park, they have knocked it out of the city. The Blu-ray comes in a nice sturdy cardboard box, providing a fantastic booklet, a reversible poster (original poster on one side, new on the other) and inside the Blu-ray you have some cool lobby cards.
As for the transfer, originally shot on 16mm, the grain is heavy at times, but Arrow cranked out a transfer that beats the crap out of all other transfers. No more nasty compression issues, instead you have an even grainfield, with just a few issues of distortion and dirt and debris. Some may not like the look of the film, but if you head here: caps-a-holic, you can see just how damn nice this new Blu-ray looks. The same goes for the solid Mono soundtrack.
The special features aren’t skimped on either, as you get a nice 54 minute documentary from Anchor Bay, some new lengthy interviews, the alternate ending, commentaries, outtakes, trailers and a gallery. This disc is bursting at the seams.
Brand new 4K restoration from original film elements, supervised by producer Peter Locke
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
6 x postcards
Reversible fold-out poster featuring new and original artwork
Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and a consideration of the Hills franchise by Ewan Cant, illustrated with original archive stills
Audio commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke
Audio Commentary with Mikel J. Koven
Audio Commentary with Cast
Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes – making-of documentary featuring interviews with Craven, Locke, actors Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier and director of photography Eric Saarinen
The Desert Sessions – brand new interview with composer Don Peake
Alternate ending, in HD for the first time
Trailers and TV Spots
Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
Limited to 10,000 units for the USA
The Hills Have Eyes has actually aged quite nicely. Yes, there are some low budget issues here and there, but the tension and terror still live on. We will always miss Wes Craven, but Arrow Video keeps his legacy alive with this absolutely phenomenal Blu-ray.