The Carter couple are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary
with a drive across the California desert, towing a trailer
home. Their family is dragged along, unwillingly, for the
ride: a daughter, her pacifist husband and their baby; and
a slightly younger son and daughter. When they reach the desert
of New Mexico (actually filmed in Morocco) a gas station owner
purposefully misdirects them into the hills. After an accident
which wrecks the car, caused by an unseen stinger (spikes
normally use by the police to bring a vehicle to a halt),
they are effectively stranded. The father takes the long walk
back to the gas station and into trouble, while the son-in-law
heads in the opposite direction looking for civilisation,
only to find a crater containing dozens of vehicles. The others
are attacked by violent flesh-eating mutants. When the son-in-law
returns to find his wife dead and his baby taken, the younger
son and daughter are left to fend for themselves while the
pacifist goes on the offensive to get back his offspring...
is an updated remake of Wes Craven's 1976
original film. In fact, he and his cohort Peter
Locke are producers on this movie. The rights were offered
to the French director Alexandre
Aja, who made the excellent slasher movie Switchblade
Romance (also known as Haute Tension), and co-writer
Gregory Levasseur. They both remembered the original with
affection, but made it plain the horror hadn't stood the test
of time and therefore had to be updated for a new audience.
changes were made, the greatest being the addition of the
mutant family background. In this version a New Mexico mining
town is evacuated by the government for the purposes of atomic
testing. The family refuses to be driven away and disappears
into the hills. The twisted psychopaths encountered by the
holidaymakers are the radiation-mutated offspring of that
family. This somewhat hackneyed idea produces two great plot
points. Firstly, it's infinitely more edgy to have a major
scene take place in a long-abandoned small town than the bland
backdrop of the desert. In fact, as the central character
walks through the town searching for his baby, the filming
techniques momentarily turn it into a western, with unseen
third-party points of view through the windows from several
The second, more important point is that the mutants are in
effect victims too. Victims of a cold war society, perhaps;
but while it could be argued that the original mining family
chose its own fate, the subsequent spawned generations did
not. They have had to fend for themselves and that means all
their provisions - including food - have come from hapless
travellers. As it's pretty difficult to feel sympathy for
a bunch of hideous cannibal abominations, the writers have
been shrewd enough here to include a less ugly mutant girl
who is very protective of the baby (a maternal instinct, even),
causing inevitable conflict among the others.
All said and done, this is a powerful film about survival.
The horror is at times brutal and visceral (no more so than
the average Jason or Chucky film), but it is all conducive
to the plot, and the sight of blood is surprisingly scarce.
It's left ambiguous as to whether or not Emilie De Ravin's
(Lost) Brenda Carter character is raped. It's more
implied than seen, but in one respect is the ugliest moment.
However, as the film seems to forget all about this, perhaps
I was wrong. I'm just grateful we didn't get a "Nine Months
Later" epilogue of a mutant baby birth, otherwise this decent
horror flick would have degenerated into an It's Alive
prequel. I look forward to Alexandre Aja's next project.
on this single disc include: a commentary with writer/director
Alexandre Aja, writer/art director Gregory Levasseur and producer
Marianne Maddalena; a second commentary with main producers
Wes Craven and Peter Locke; Surviving the Hills, an
informative Making of... documentary; music video Leave
the Broken Hearts by The Finalist; and far too many trailers
for other films.
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