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The Film


View Count: 2
Last Viewed:2006.06.25
First/Last Reviewed:2006.04.02/2006.07.01

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There seems to be two strong trends in Hollywood these days. The first is to remake a lot of classic horror films from the 70's. We have had to recently suffer through such remakes as Amityville Horror, The (2005), Fog, The (2005), Omen, The (2006) or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (2003). The second trend is that many foreign directors were hired to direct many of the recent Horror films, remakes or not. Of course, you had many Japanese directors remaking their successful Japanese horror films, and there are also a few German directors. More surprisingly, you also have a few French guys in spite of France never having been a strong producer of Horror films. The recent Silent Hill (2006) was directed by a French guy, and this movie is too.

After his High Tension (2003), French director Alexandre Aja immediately shot to international fame, albeit in specialized circles. In spite of suffering from a very dumb ending, the movie was filled with graphic and gritty horror imageries and style that was definitely fresh and intriguing. It caught the eye of some Hollywood producers, and went on to start work on a remake of Wes Craven's classic American horror movie Hills Have Eyes 1, The (1977). Given the track record of many of those other horror remakes, many of them being at best mediocre, i was suspicious of this one, even if i never was a great fan of the original. I had seen the remake at a friend's place on a pirate DVD (Oh! The shame!) when it hit the theaters earlier this year, but the copy was so bad that i never considered having actually watched the film. I saw enough though to be intrigued and decided to buy the DVD as soon as it came out.

This remake follows the original story pretty closely. A typical suburban American family on a cross-country camping trip finds itself lost somewhere in the deserts of New Mexico where the US government conducted nuclear testing in the 50's. It's all but a wasteland now, but it's not empty. Quickly, the family finds itself stalked by horrible human mutants with a thirst for blood, and hunger for human flesh. The lucky ones die first and one by one, members of the family are killed until the last three survivors stand up and fight back.

The original has not aged well and has lost most of its scares and ghoulishness, and so one could have expected a remake that fell quite flat. Unlike the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (2003) which was but a pale copy of the 1974 original (which i hold in very high respect), this remake actually improves greatly on the original. It is very gritty and graphic, which is starting to become a hallmark of Aja's style. It has an impeccable art direction and moody and precise cinematography. The film is very well paced and when things start getting ugly, the movie doesn't let go until the end. The cast is really good and although none of the performances will win anybody an Oscar, they are pitch perfect for this kind of film and the story. The film is bloody and actually scary, and although it might turn off the casual Horror fan because of its brutality and raw power, it should satisfy any hard-core fan of the genre. Aja definitely pulled all the punches necessary to make you feel tense and did not compromise much.

In this day and age of mediocre horror remakes, this film is refreshing. Produced by Wes Craven himself (the writer/director of the original), one can see he is a smart man and seems to have given Aja a lot of freedom to add his personal style to this classic. It remains faithful but is well modernized, and definitely gorier and scarier, at least for a 2006 audience. With a better cast, a greater budget and an experienced team behind it, this remake is a definitive improvement over the original. Finally, the DVD presents the film with great care and contains interesting extras. The Unrated version has a minute or two of additional footage, but nothing that will be obvious unless you compare both versions side by side. In any case, when a studio releases the two versions simultaneously, i generally prefer to get the Director's Cut or Unrated versions, even if the differences are minimal. It's when studios double-dip with an Unrated version 6 months after the first DVD came out that i get angry and skip it.

- Laurent Hasson