The Hills Have Eyes

Film
THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE TRAILER Emilie de Ravin isn't expecting guests.
THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE TRAILER Emilie de Ravin isn’t expecting guests.

Time Out says

Them hills got radioactive mutants, too. While the trend of remaking ’70s horror shows no sign of abating, one could be forgiven for harboring slightly higher expectations this time. French director Alexandre Aja broke through in a decidedly stylish fashion with 2003’s High Tension. And Hills’ 1977 source, Wes Craven’s grubby, Tobe Hooper--indebted shocker about a vacationing family stranded in the New Mexico desert with inbred cannibals, has plenty of potential to exploit.

But apart from a few topical gags—the soon-to-be-torched dad (Levine) is a gun-toting Republican, his son-in-law (Stanford), a bespectacled softy—this new Hills is a depressingly rote affair. Can a film made almost 30 years ago actually contain more explosive psychosexual content than one made today? You betcha, especially when a studio evidently deemed Craven’s sickest plot wrinkles (dead family members laid out as bait; an extended mutant disagreement over who gets to eat the captured human baby) dismissible.

Aja bathes the proceedings in a camera slickness that’s wildly out of place, especially after last year’s grungy The Devil’s Rejects showed us the way forward is back to 16mm. Only a dense, darkly buzzing synth score by tech pioneers Tomandandy provides the correct level of scuzziness. Lesson to be learned: If Hollywood wants to feast on the corpses of grindhouse’s past, it would help if it liked eating meat. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—Joshua Rothkopf

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