November 23, 2021

THE HILLS HAVE EYES: Crazy Cannibals in 4K

1977 / 90 min


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Looking back at Wes Craven’s early career, a couple of things immediately come to mind. First, he was kind of a sick puppy whose films went beyond mere horror escapism to rub audience noses in all sorts of human depravity. Second, unlike such contemporaries as Carpenter and Romero, he was still trying to figure out how to make movies.

I know Last House on the Left has its fans, but not only does it remain a joyless exercise in pure nihilism, it’s poorly written, amateurishly performed and haphazardly directed by a guy whose only noticeable skill was pointing the camera in the right direction. But hey, everyone has to start somewhere. Craven’s next film, The Hills Have Eyes, may not be what anyone would mistake for a masterpiece, but it’s obvious he learned a lot in the interim. 

Thematically, The Hills Have Eyes is similar to Last House in that both films depict their main characters' descent into savagery. Instead of revenge, however, this time it’s for pure survival. Taking an obvious cue from Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Craven also creates antagonists - a family of desert cannibals - that are far more interesting (and entertaining) than his protagonists. Yeah, the film still wallows in depravity, but it's tempered by healthy amounts of twisted humor, making some of the violence easier to take.

The scariest part of the movie? That outfit.
And unlike Last House, Craven manages moments of genuine tension and takes advantage of the film’s atmospheric desert setting. The result is a film that doesn’t quite transcend its low budget origins, but it’s his first that’s at least watchable. And though Craven’s best work was still years away, The Hills Have Eyes offers glimpses of what he would someday become. In that respect, the film is a historically important stepping stone.

For collectors, the only difference between this Limited Edition boxed set and Arrow’s 2016 release is the 4K Ultra HD disc. All of the bonus features and aesthetic goodies (outlined below) are identical. As for the 4K transfer, it’s not bad, particularly during the daylight scenes. However, the night sequences - roughly the middle third of the film - are often pretty dark and grainy. The 7.1 remix sounds great, though.


LOOKING BACK AT THE HILLS HAVE EYES - Retrospective doc featuring interview with director Wes Craven producer Peter Locke and most of the primary cast.

FAMILY BUSINESS - Interview with actor Martin Spear.

THE DESERT SESSIONS - Interview with composer Don Peake.

3 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Sesan Lanier & Martin Spear; 2) By Mikel J. Koven; 3) By director WesCraven & producer Peter Locke.

ALTERNATE ENDING - The order of a few kills during the climax are switched, with a more cheerful final scene.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - On-screen text of the screenplay under its original title.



IMAGE GALLERY - Mostly promotional art.

SUPPLEMENTARY BOOKLET - Running 40 pages, it includes 2 essays, cast, crew & restoration credits.

TWO-SIDED POSTER - Featuring 2016 and original artwork. We prefer the original, since it is somewhat iconic.


REVERSIBLE COVER - Featuring 2016 and original artwork.

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