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STUDIO: Fox
MSRP: $29.99
RATING: NR
RUNNING TIME: 101 min.
SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Featurette
- Music video
- Commentaries

THE PITCH

The Hills Have New Eyes!”

THE HUMANS

Ted Levine, Emilie de Ravin, Aaron Stanford, Kathleen Quinlan, Dan Byrd, Vinessa Shaw, mutants

THE NUTSHELL

Guncrazy ex-cop Big Bob (Levine) is on his way from Ohio to a vacation in California, and has his entire family in tow – quite literally, in a refurbished Airstream trailer. Unfortunately their cross-country expedition brings them through some New Mexico badlands, where nuclear testing from decades ago has had a decidedly adverse effect on the locals. When their vehicle breaks down in the middle of the desert, Bob and his clan get the opportunity to meet them. Rape, murder, mutilation, charred flesh, cannibalism and revenge ensue.


"I thought I recognized you — you’re Acting Sensation Mayor Ted Levine! You need to do more podcasts!"

THE LOWDOWN

This may piss off the horror purists, but Wes Craven’s 1977 “classic” holds up about as well as Charlie Sheen’s monogamy at a Playboy party. With his remake, director Alexandre Aja combines the original’s deformed skeleton of a story with everything he learned from his previous terror tale High Tension, throwing some effective hooks and pushing the limits of human survival instinct nearly as far as the boundaries of suspense and good taste — this is a raw, nasty old-fashioned horror movie, a visceral exploitation experience not meant for those of weak hearts and strong values.


Dear producers of Lost: please incorporate more of this attire and behavior into Season 3 (note: please limit to the three lead female characters. And maybe that Saywer guy.)

Much like the killer in High Tension, these ghoulish irradiated freaks strike with uncompromising brutality, and thoroughly enjoy themselves with their torture of the travelers. While their origin — a mystery that didn’t really demand analysis — now feels a bit over-explained, the manic mutant clan conversely isn’t given an excess of personality (a hungry Billy Drago basically shows up and blows up).  There are, however, a couple of noteworthy exceptions: the slithery Lizard and the hulking Pluto (played by guys accustomed to acting under makeup – Robert Joy had his face fucked up in Land of the Dead, and Michael Bailey Smith was in the Thing’s orange rock suit for Corman’s unreleased but often bootlegged Fantastic Four movie). The character designs and prosthetics are as phenomenal as they are horrific, and for the gore enthusiasts, there’s no shortage of crimson geysers and limb removal (people in movies deal with digit deficit much better than I probably would), remarkably realized by the masters at KNB EFX.


"Why did I listen to you, Dentist #5!?!"

Aja’s bleak film builds to a relentlessly vicious pace, and fortunately his humans (and one dog) meet the challenge with axe in sticky fist. Stanford in particular gives a notably solid performance, certainly more primal in the face of mutants than his own turn as Pyro in the last two X-Men movies – here he’s a non-Famke Phoenix, rising from a shattered life to exact retribution.  Successfully managing grisly frights in both the pitch black of desert night and the desolate daylight landscape, Aja’s update proves unsettling yet invigorating, and strangely artistic – a welcome return to the roots of the genre’s blood-soaked glory.

THE PACKAGE

The picture impressively handles the harshly contrasting environments, and the Dolby 5.1 audio pushes the effective score and ominous noise into your fearful lobes. At first glance I was disappointed by the list of bonus features – I expected a ton of treats focusing on the makeup, production design and so on, but there’s only a single behind-the-scenes featurette called “Surviving the Hills”. But no cause for alarm – it’s actually a chunky hour-long documentary that goes into terrific detail on every aspect of the production, including all the digital and makeup work (I could watch a whole disc of Nicotero and his KNB crew working their practical magic), loads of interviews, and some odd surprises (the wheelchair-bound “Big Brain” is played by the British tantric sex kid from Go!).


Wow, that’s the third most fucked-up adaptation of "Little Red Riding Hood" I’ve seen this week.

Aja joins art director/co-writer Gregory Levasseur and producer Marianne Maddalena for the first commentary track, and once your ears acclimate to the thick French accents (which they actually apologize for) there are plenty of interesting anecdotes and technical comments, plus notes on what makes this version "unrated", although most of their conversational meat is also covered in the documentary. The other commentary with Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke is unexpectedly playful (almost to the point of indulgence), but also provides lots of information about the shoot.  There are also seven production diaries shot on the set while filming took place, and a music video most people probably won’t bother with.

8.0 out of 10