How times have changed. Back in the early days of the home video explosion ?I? talking late ?0s, early ?0s ?there were a string of films known as ?ideo nasties?and they were so grisly and ghastly the BBFC wouldn? dream of giving them a certificate and they only way you could get to see one of these gory masterpieces was to pull a few strings and make some contacts in the video underworld. Fast-forward to 2006 and I picked up a copy of one of the most notorious of these films ?DRILLER KILLER ?for ?.99 in Woolies a few weeks ago. How very bizarre.

With Hollywood eating itself faster and faster (films based on TV shows, films based on other films, remakes of films that shouldn? have been made in the first place) it? hardly surprising that the studios have taking to reimagining these video nasties, sprucing them up and making them respectable fare for general consumption. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE did decent business a couple of years back so here? another previously-taboo title given a flashy makeover, shoved into a nice clean suit and marched out into the multiplex for decent people to look at. That? not to say that THE HILLS HAVE EYES is an easy ride, though; it? Hollywood through and through but it? sometimes difficult to watch, it? harsh and unrelenting, desperately pessimistic and, at times, it sails pretty close to the wind.

The song remains the same; the Carter family are, as families in this sort of movie inevitably do, travelling across the desolate terrain of middle America on some anniversary holiday or other. The obligatory gummy old hick in a dusty gas station misdirects them and they end up run off the road and stuck in the middle of nowhere. The two men in the group set off in different directions to find help but when night falls the rest of the family come under attack by something very nasty lurking out in the wilderness. The family are stranded in an old nuclear testing zone and the relatives of a stubborn old mining community are still in residence ?but nuclear radiation has done terrible things to them, turning them into monstrous deformed mutants with a thirst for killing and a taste for human flesh. Yum yum.

It? about a third of the way through this superbly-shot movie that things get very, very nasty and very very unsettling. The assault on the family? camper van while most of them are asleep is unrelentingly unpleasant and the fatalities start to rack up. It? shocking stuff even though we know it? coming. The leisurely first thirty minutes of the movie have subtly introduced us to the Carter clan and, although they?e defined in fairly broad strokes, they?e real enough for us to feel their pain and their horror as the terror starts. This is modern horror pushed right to the edge and the scene where one of the Carter women is assaulted as a gun is held to her baby? head is about as shocking as it gets.

From hereon the film never really lets up. The violence becomes a bit easier to tolerate as it becomes more extreme but there? plenty of hacking, slashing, gouging and one hair-raising incineration. Where the original HILLS HAVE EYES saw the Carter survivors become just as animalistic as their attackers, the new movie doesn? go down this route; even so, it? hard not to cheer when the tables start to turn and the mutants start to get what they deserve.

THE HILLS HAVE EYES won? win any mainstream awards but then that? not why it was made. Horror fans will lap it up as it? far more ?n your face?than many recent offerings in the genre. Director Alexandre Aja directs with real flair for this stuff, he coaxes ultra-realistic performances from his largely-unknown cast and the cinematography of the stark, desperate landscape is pretty breath-taking. If you?e a strong stomach and can? get enough of those ?ump in your seat?moments, THE HILLS HAVE EYES will do it for you. Very impressive in a blood-curdling sort of way.]]>

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