Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Eyes; horror-thriller, USA, 1977; D: Wes Craven, S: Martin Speer, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier, Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve, James Whitworth

After tanking fuel at a desolate gas station, the 7-member Carter family gets off the main road and crashes into a stone in the middle of the California desert. At night, the family is besieged in their trailer and attacked by a family of cannibalistic savages, led by Papa Jupiter, who lives wildly in the hills. Mother and father of the Carter family are killed, as well as their daughter Lynne, but their children - among them Bobby, Brenda and Lynne's husband Doug - use their dog to strike back at Jupiter's family, killing him and his three sons, while his daughter Ruby refused to kill Doug's baby.

One of Wes Craven's most famous cult films, this horror is a raw essay on the nature of evil. It takes a wonderfully chilling concept of a family stuck with their trailer in the middle of the California desert, and combines it with some classic elements of Western siege and survival thriller—which tend to be crude and vile at moments, but carry an actually overall finely packed message around it. The story has a sly yin-and-yang structure, since the evil family of savages, led by Papa Jupiter, is just an antipode to the perfect, seemingly innocent Carter family, and as much as some goodness manages to pass over to them (Ruby, who refuses to harm the baby), more aggression transverses to the Carter family (Doug, Bobby). There are even some allegories to the Vietnam war: the Carters are intruders, they trespass to a foreign territory and their superior technology is always there to disappoint them, whereas the savage family uses guerrilla tactics to attack them, and is quick to find cover on their mountainous terrain. However, it would have been better if Craven managed to elaborate these parallels in more detail, since some storylines are left as bare stubs. Still, at its core, it gives a thought-provoking message: the savage family was born and raised evil, while the Carters were raised good and civilized, yet it is strange how fast they would fall and become evil themselves (at night, the savage family attacks and kills members of the Carter family, while at day, the opposite happens, and—it seems—as if violence against the members of savage family is suddenly, and shockingly, much more "acceptable" then against the Carters). This is a horror without monsters. Instead, it is a movie with people who enter the mentality, the state of a monster. And as such, the message in the end, of that violent state prevailing, makes it even more monstrous.


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