Once in awhile a remake that is shot for shot will come along and be better than the original. The 2006 remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES directed by Alexandre Aja is a perfect example. Talk about a remake that improves on almost aspect of the 1977 original. Watching the original nowadays the only thing going for it I'd say is the look of it. Shot on 16mm like every good horror movie should be.
I do not particularly care for the original movie. Hearing about the movie and reading the back of the VHS box makes the film sound a lot better than it really is. A lot of it has to do with the killers. These guys are supposed to be mutant cannibals but instead they come across as backwoods hippies. And the acting wasn't very good. The cheep budget and bad acting seemed to work for me with LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but here I just found it really distracting.
Maybe I am so tough on horror remakes is because THE HILLS HAVE EYES set the standard. This film is easily one of the best horror movies of the aughts! Alexandre Aja is one of the best horror directors and producers working today. I love how he has turned exploitation into high art!
So if you didn't know, THE HILLS HAVE EYES is about the Carter's who are taking a trip through the great American southwest. But a detour on the trip takes a turn for the worse when the family car breaks down. What looks like car trouble turns out to possibly be a trap! A trap set up by some mutant cannibals living near an abandoned nuclear test site. The Carter family are in the fight of their lives when the strange inhabitants start the gruesome massacre.
For fans of the original, yeah there is nothing new here. The rape scene in the original is still shocking, but nothing can compare or prepare you for how Aja cranks up the tension in the remake. Spoiler alert! I remember people walking out of the theater, and you know a horror film is doing something right whenever this happens. I almost did the same thing! The scene I am referring to involves a loaded gun to a baby's head. The baby lives (you think the film is going 'there' but thankfully does not); but still, that is some deep dark territory.
But the real improvement for me is when the mutant family takes center stage. Notice how I said mutant family and not hippie commune. I'm sure if I saw the original at the time of release I would have thought Pluto and the rest of the gang were scary. But by today's standards the look silly.
In the new film some of the mutants are just painful to look at. I remember one guy who was confined to a chair and his neck could not support the weight of his head. It was creepy and I felt sorry for the guy and thought his brothers or sons should do him a favor and put the guy out of his misery.
I haven't seen the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES for almost 10 years and wonder if it still holds up? I bet it does. So if you're like me and wanting to honor the memory of Wes Craven by watching a lot of his films this October, give this remake he produced a try.