As pretty much anyone who has met me will know, I like me some obscure Horror Films. Case in point: I saw a Belgian Vampire film called Daughters of Darkness the other day and it was really, really good.
(A short guide to French and Belgian horror: soft lighting, dialogue, soft lighting, soft lighting, dialogue, VIOLENCE, soft lighting, ambiguity).
Of course, I am still a massive fan of the 'classics' - I could literally write thousands of words about Night of The Living Dead, for instance - but there was always a couple I hadn't seen. 1977's The Hills Have Eyes was one of the more prominent. Released in the prime of Horror's Last Great Age by Wes Craven (seriously, check out how many classic horrors were released between 1975 and 1982, I'll wait) it's also famous for having an awesome poster. And I finally saw it last night.
And, yeah. It's a film.
A 'nice' American family are driving in their RV to California and decide to take a detour through the desert to see an inherited silver mine - despite warnings from a Redneck gas station attendant (scoring zero points for originality, despite a fun performance from John Steadman). They break down, one of the two dogs gets mysteriously killed and basically it's suburbanites vs. insanely tough cave-dwelling hillbillies. That's it. There is not a lot more to it.
The characters are all fairly flat, pretty much losing my sympathy after not listening to a man who's not handing out cryptic 'I wouldn't go that way if I were you' quotes but who bluntly tells them it's dangerous and is clearly terrified. The 'other' family are a lot more charismatic, and actually have a motive for their attacks (crazy as they are). They also lecture corpses, wear fur and bones and are all named after planets.
It's two faults of the film that the 'good' family are both less interesting to watch and such morons that you don't really sympathize with them at all (at least I didn't) even when horrendous stuff is happening to them. This is a major problem with a lot of modern horror films in the same vein - you've got to feel bad when people die. It has a vague thread running through it about the dehumanization of the 'good' family (or rather de-civilization) which is somewhat interesting, but it doesn't really add up to much.
So is there any reason to watch it? I suppose if you like your horror uncluttered with pretensions of social significance you may like it, but there is one redeeming feature of this film.
That is the other dog, Beast (the deceased dog being called Beauty, because Wes Craven thinks subtlety and subtext can go screw themselves). For the first two thirds of the film, the only remotely competent thing done by ANYONE is done by this dog. It directly deals with threats far more efficiency than anybody else. This is a dog that Gets S**t Done.
This is a film with about a dozen named characters. The dog is the best one, by a considerable margin. I think that says enough about the film.
The Hills Have Eyes? Meh. Beast the Wonder Dog? 5 stars!