“Can we have a word of prayer first… Just to ask the lord to watch over us all, is that too much to ask?” A year ago today, Wes Craven died. I felt and continue to feel devastated by this fact. Few filmmakers have made such an impact on this art form, let alone with that impact so closely intertwined strictly with horror films. When I heard of this news, like everyone, I immediately thought of his films that explored nightmares. However, it was not the first film I had to watch. I don’t have a single bad thing to say regarding his most well-known film. There is a reason it is so popular and spawned a movement in cinema and popular culture. To say it is fun, takes nothing away from its powerful ability to frighten to this very day. However, the film that I had to watch was his most dangerous. One of the few films that feels unpleasant to watch not only the first time I saw it, but today as well. That film is The Hills Have Eyes. The Hills Have Eyes is a story about two families, and the lengths they go to stay alive. The Carter family is vacationing in California and unwisely leaves the paved highway, breaking down in the middle of the desert, which is where the Jupiter family has made their home. The Jupiters are a wild family of cannibals, who have made their living by picking off unwary travelers. By nightfall, the innocent vacation becomes a savage struggle for survival where the lucky ones die first. The Hills Have Eyes takes place essentially in real time, and the audience is brought along the way. Of the many haunting moments in the film is when Grandpa Fred tells the story of how his son Jupiter, was born evil and came to have a family of his own in the hills. The spare score accompanies John Steadman’s monologue perfectly. No words this reviewer has could convey the tragedy, horror, and skill of John Steadman’s performance. Wes Craven’s writing was second to none in horror films and this scene and monologue is proof positive. Shortly after, we meet Jupiter in the best, most truly terrifying jump scare of the whole film. When Papa Jup drags Grandpa Fred into the darkness and splits his skull with unimaginable ferocity. An expertly written and directed scene, in an expertly written and directed movie. What makes Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes the scariest of his pictures is that it successfully manages to tap into one of our oldest fears, the fear of the dark. The dark is not only where we populate all our despairs, but it’s where “the other”comes from. “The other” seeks to do harm to you, and your family, and you have to decide how to respond. The Carters have to discover this themselves when The Jupiters brutally attack in the night. Instead of a methodical picking off one at a time, in a matter of minutes, big Bob is set on fire, Brenda is raped, Ethel and Lynne are shot dead, and baby Katherine is taken. As Pluto rapes Brenda, her shrill, blood-curdling screams fill the scene as Mars, like an animal eats raw meat and drinks the blood of a live bird. It is rare when a horror movie can combine the murder of defenseless women, rape, animal cruelty, and baby kidnapping so effectively and not seem tastelessly gratuitous and pointlessly exploitative. The scene ends with Mars dragging Brenda outside, the music is tensely building, Mars puts a gun to her head, when he pulls the trigger the music comes to a dead stop, out of bullets. Mars growls, “I come back for you later girly,” then runs off into the night. It’s one of the most disturbing scenes of Wes Craven’s career, despite being only seconds long. Movies today have a tendency to rely heavily on the jump scare, but rarely present a truly disturbing thought or sight. One in particular, occurs when we spend the most time with the Jupiter family. Bob was not only set on fire to distract the Carters, he was killed to provide a meal for his family. This is one of the best and most uncomfortable examples of cannibalism in horror films. Certain Italian movies involving this subject went for a sensationalist, documentary-style look. In those films, the cannibals were in a foreign land, whereas in The Hills Have Eyes those eyes, and those hills, are completely American. Although cannibalism is a theme in the movie, it never becomes a “cannibal movie.” Its power resides in survival. It is profoundly disturbing and uncomfortable when Papa Jup looks right into the camera and screams “I’ll eat the brains of your kids, kids.” Only he isn’t looking just into the camera, but at what’s left of big Bob’s head. After all of this, what is most truly frightening about this movie is what remains once it is over. The end of the movie, when Doug catches up to Mars, rage and primal instinct take over. He proceeds to stab him repeatedly, over and over until nothing is left of either men. The film ends abruptly with the screen going red and a still shot of Doug’s face. The look on his face is what horror is all about. This isn’t a look of “I did the right thing” or “vengeance is mine” the look on his face says “my god, what am I?” It is the most chilling moment in the film and lingers with the audience long after the credits roll. It leaves the viewer questioning how far they would go, not only for the ones we love, but to survive. Granted, the likelihood of being surrounded by cannibals in the middle of the desert is remote. But it’s important to remember that the Jupiter family aren’t supernatural monsters. They, like the Carters, are simply people, a family doing what they have to, to survive. Wes Craven was a master at presenting the audience with questions such as these. When I heard of the news of Wes Craven’s passing, I was talking a walk, nervous about the future. I was heading back to school after a long hiatus. The times were changing in my life, and my return to school in hopes of obtaining an English degree seemed invisibly far away, like civilization in The Hills Have Eyes. I wish that it wasn’t this headline to get my mind off of these matters, but there was an affirmation in this news. Wes Craven will always be known for his movies, but before this career, he was a professor of English. I had not known this fact. The man is a hero of mine, his movies proved that dreams can come true. A year later, that English degree is visible and Wes Craven is still missed. See larger image The Hills Have Eyes p>THE LUCKY ONES DIED FIRST… Horror master Wes Craven achieved critical and commercial success with the likes of Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street but for many genre fans, the director s seminal 1977 effort The Hills Have Eyes remains his masterpiece. Taking a detour whilst on route to Los Angeles, the Carter family run into trouble when their campervan breaks down in the middle of the desert. Stranded, the family find themselves at the mercy of a group of monstrous cannibals lurking in the surrounding hills. With their lives under threat, the Carters are forced to fight back by any means necessary. As gruelling a viewing experience today as it was upon initial release, The Hills Have Eyes stands alongside the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead as one of the defining moments in American horror cinema. LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS Brand new 4K restoration from original film elements, supervised by producer Peter Locke High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation Original mono audio Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing 6 x postcards Reversible fold-out poster featuring new and original artwork Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and a consideration of the Hills franchise by Ewan Cant, illustrated with original archive stills Audio commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes making-of documentary featuring interviews with Craven, Locke, actors Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier and director of photography Eric Saarinen The Desert Sessions brand new interview with composer Don Peake Alternate ending, in HD for the first time Trailers and TV Spots Image Gallery Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content) Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper + MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED! New From: $22.98 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses ABCs of Horror 2016 Day 29: W is for Dee Wallace - Psycho Drive-In October 29, 2016 […] also ranks highly as a scream queen! Her horror film career started out with the 1977 cult classic The Hills Have Eyes, written and directed by the legendary filmmaker Wes Craven. I seriously doubt that anyone checking […] Log in to Reply Women in Horror: Dee Wallace - Psycho Drive-In February 2, 2017 […] also ranks highly as a scream queen! Her horror film career started out with the 1977 cult classic The Hills Have Eyes, written and directed by the legendary filmmaker Wes Craven. I seriously doubt that anyone checking […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.