Wednesday, 24 August 2016
I've Just Seen: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Director: Wes Craven
Even in films where boundaries are pushed, a balance needs to be achieved. The writer and/or director needs to decide how far to push things, and the good ones usually put story and themes before their desire to simply freak the audience out. Wes Craven is a master at this, and The Hills Have Eyes, one of the nastiest, most brutal horror films I have seen, is a perfect demonstration of his ability to keep us horribly transfixed on what we are seeing. While their is less blood splatter and even images of violence than we may see in modern cinema, the ideas presented to us are still shocking.
The story posits two families against each other: one is your typical middle-America, blonde-haired, slightly arrogant family who don't heed the warnings about not going off the road. The other is an even more feral version of the Mason family, with patriarch Jupiter schooling his family in the ways of cannibalism. What is interesting is the way our sympathies are employed in this film. The 'normal' family of the Carters, while rather self-centred and even unpleasant at times, don't derserve the awful things that happen to them. And yet, we watch them drawn into this dog-eat-dog world, eventually displaying the same monstrous behaviour of the desert family.
I couldn't help but be reminded of the famous Nietzche quote when watching Craven's film: 'Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.' Craven pushes the audience and the Carter family to experience such awful things to show us that such behaviour is a part of human nature (albeit at the extreme end). It also brilliantly skewers the idea of the incorruptibility of the family unit, for Jupiter's family is perhaps even more loyal to each other than the Carter family is. These ideas are what elevate this film from being simply an exploitation flick into something potentially even more disturbing.