I mainly love this film because I find it fricking scary. The creepy hillbilly mutants that hide in the caves, give me the chills. Alexandre Aja is stylish and effective with this gory and shocking remake of a Wes Craven horror film.
Appreciate this, gentle reader. I scared myself shitless by rewatching this movie, and I did it for you.
The intro sequence begins as a person in a nuclear safety suit catches a CGI fish in a net, for testing. The music heightens the tension. He’s going to get got. Tight frames and the claustrophobic effect of seeing from the point of view from within his suit add to the anticipatory fright.
When the chase begins it is gory and disgusting. The contrast between these callous monsters and the country songs (to reflect the hillbilly theme,) alongside nuclear testing explosions create a feeling of terror and unease. Don’t watch while eating your dinner, folks.
Eventually we arrive at the main plot. There is still some mystery here, suspending your reaction – who or what is Ruby? The diplomatic garage attendant (Tom Bower), reluctant to play his part, versus the family of tourists.
This is what it’s all about, because, especially for Americans, this is a familiar scene. Holidays for many are cross-country road trips. And much of America exists as deserted towns on the edge of civilisation. Telling horror stories is very much about tapping into society’s common fears.
We know the attendant is a villain, at least a little bit, because the severed ear does not faze, or even interest him.
Our story begins with a typical character-group introduction. Siblings at war now, will be re-established in contrast to this later, when the object of horror tests their relationship. The innocent mother and her even more innocent baby will be tasty victims.
The loser boyfriend will have an opportunity to prove himself as a man – a warrior, a hunter, protector of the innocents. It is the ignorance of the relaxed and uber-masculine father figure, Big Bob Carter (Ted Levine/Buffalo Bill) that drops them into this situation.
The moral of the story is don’t trust strange hillbillies and nowhere is safe from monsters. With wars going on overseas and guns for hoodlums in the streets, only the majority, the privileged - white middle-class family is safe from monsters.
They have felt safe for their entire lives, but partly due to this relaxed attitude they will now enter Hellfire and finally will be challenged and tested. We choose what we fight for.
Having pets to look after, makes these characters vulnerable. If you are in a horror movie situation, it is that moment when you fail to disclose suspicions that you are being hunted, because you don’t want to be embarrassed by the wrongness of your overreaction, or you don't want to scare the others. This is the moment when the monster wins. It preys on this opportunity – when your hesitation (and possibly pride) makes you weak.
These characters are interesting. Doug, (Aaron Stanford) the unwilling monster-hunter. The boy, Bobby (Dan Byrd) his reaction to his family, to Ruby and his sister and the dogs.
When Bobby takes a closer look at how the animal was killed, he suspects it was killed by a blade and not another animal, and he runs away – falls and bangs his head, unconscious. Favourite scene is the crucifixion and burning of one of the men, as a warning, but more so as a diversion so that two mutants can sneak into the caravan with a mind to rape the baby’s mother.
Personally, I prefer movies about demons and supernatural monsters, but as far as hillbilly rapists (comparable to Deliverance,) this is certainly effective.