Blu-ray Movie Review – The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The Hills Have Eyes
Directed by Wes Craven
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1977
Blu-ray Release Date: October 11, 2016

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One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is hearing my mom and dad talking about the commercial for THE HILLS HAVE EYES. I was probably four or five at the time, and the film had just come out in theaters. My mom was horrified and appalled that such a film could be released, and I remember my dad saying he wasn’t surprised with the way the world was headed. I’m not sure why this memory sticks out in my mind, but it’s an interesting prelude to who I would eventually become (meaning an avid fan of horror).

When I heard Arrow and MVD were teaming up again to release Wes Craven’s masterpiece on Blu-ray, I knew it would be a hit. And sure enough, it does not disappoint. If you’re a fan of the film or even just a fan of Craven’s, this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set will be a must-have for your library. I will go so far as to even say every horror fan worth his or her salt should add this one; it is an epic version of a great film.

If you are not familiar with THE HILLS HAVE EYES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

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 grueling 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.

In an interesting bit of timing, I just saw THE HILLS HAVE EYES for the first time a couple of days ago on DVD, prior to receiving this Blu-ray set. As such, I can testify to how much better the picture looks on Arrow/MVD’s version; the HD transfer is a HUGE leap forward, and it makes the movie experience much more enjoyable. Although the colors don’t pop (I mean, how can they…the film is set in the desert!), the image is cleaned up nicely, and the grainy composition is almost completely gone. The sound quality seems about the same, however I did notice my satellite speakers getting more use from the Blu-ray version.

The acting in THE HILLS HAVE EYES is great, with some very familiar names gracing the credits. Genre icon Dee Wallace is one that jumps right out at me, although she’s got plenty of good company with the likes of Michael Berryman, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier, and Janus Blythe. The whole cast does a great job.

The special effects are very good for the time period, although there’s not nearly as much gore as I was expecting. This is not a detractor from the film at all, just more of a personal observation. Still, what we do get to see is great.

The intensity in the film is what really wins here, though. Craven does an excellent job of building tension and a foreboding atmosphere. The result is an adrenaline-churning thriller that keeps you chomping on your fingernails until the credits.

My sole complaint about THE HILLS HAVE EYES is the ending, and from some of the other reviews I’ve read, I’m not alone. Many people feel it to be too abrupt, and not satisfying enough. Interestingly, in the Special Features, we are offered an Alternative Ending, which does much better, in my opinion. I’m surprised this one was not used for the theatrical release instead, although I guess I can see the original’s merits from an artistic standpoint.

Also included in the Special Features, which as far as I can tell is NOT available on the DVD edition, is a nice collection of Outtakes/Bloopers from the film. I enjoyed seeing this, as it gives a more personal feel to the film in a way.

THE HILLS HAVE EYES is a major win for me, and I’m very happy Arrow and MVD have released it. I hope they give the second film the same treatment, particularly because that is one I’ve never seen, either. This Limited Edition set includes some great extras, such as a collection of postcards featuring scenes from the film, a reversible fold-out poster with original artwork, and more.

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

MSB

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