A remake of the classic 1977 Wes Craven horror/thriller, this version of "The Hills Have Eyes" works the sci-fi thriller and political elements of its narrative over the horror and gore, which is both a surprising and welcome interpretation of the material, given the recent rash of intentionally vicious horror films that have leaned on the nastier aspects of the genre ("Saw," "High Tension" and "Hostel
," just to name a few). Not that there isn't plenty to squirm about here, considering the dastardly albino desert mutants and all. There is, of course, a gruesome element as the kills are played out. What's worse, we like the victims; they seem like real people rather than just grist for the mill, which makes it tough when it turns out that's exactly what they are. Still, it's the tension that makes the movie. The remake also resonates with political undertones that speak to issues very contemporary, including other desert wars where American flags wave with ever-increasing irony.
As for the premise, it's pretty much the same as in the original movie: Family members on a cross-country drive to California finds themselves stranded in an isolated area of the New Mexico desert that was once a nuclear testing ground. They become the targets of a tribe of mutant outcasts who think they're purdy. Mayhem ensues, as it is wont to do.
Starring Aaron Stanford, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, Dan Byrd, Robert Joy and Ted Levine. Directed by Alexandre Aja. Written by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur. Produced by Wes Craven, Peter Locke and Marianne Maddalena. A Fox Searchlight release. Horror/Thriller. Rated R for strong gruesome violence and terror throughout, and for language. Running time: 105 min