Tuesday, 9 October 2012

31 Days Of Horror - Day 9: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack.

Wes Craven's career started out with a bang, after his debut film "The Last House On The Left" horror fans were left shocked but wanted more, they had to wait 5 years but in 1977 Craven once again brought the shock factor.

When it comes to films that are brutal and atmospheric this film is the cream of the crop, you have to understand that what Craven was doing was pushing boundaries and when he made this film the MPAA thought he went too far, they gave the film an X-rating which would have relegated it to the porno circuit. Wes Craven did heavily cut the film enough to secure an R rating, unfortunately the original director's cut is thought to be no longer in existence.

The film is actually based on a true story, the story of Sawney Beane and his family (a wife, eight sons and six daughters). They were a feral clan who inhabited and roamed the highlands of Scotland's East Lothian County, near Edinburgh. They captured, tormented and ate several transients. When captured they were judged to be insane, and executed without trial. The executions of the Beane clan involved grotesque tortures, inspiring the aspect of the film that the Carter family become as brutal as their attackers when they seek revenge.

The cast is fantastic, we have scream queen Dee Wallace who never disappoints in any film but this film is by far one of her best performances. Also we have Horror favourite Michael Berryman who's role in the film is still talked about to this day, he's not a Horror legend for nothing! The rest of the cast were mainly unknowns but still put in great performances, yes a little over the top at times but it works well for the film.

Like I said the film is brutal and even to this day it's never lost it's edge, it may seem a little out-dated by some modern releases but the ageing of the film has only made it better viewing. It's like a fine wine that just gets better with age. The site of the film is perfect as you truly wonder where could they go to get help, to say it's set in a vast desert it has a very claustrophobic feel to it.

The films legacy speaks for itself so I'd like to leave you with my favourite story about the film: Michael Berryman said he was once watching the film in a theatre when a woman in front of him shouted 'this movie is sick and depraved!' Berryman then leant over her and said 'you're damn right lady this movie is sick!'

If you want to see "The Hills Have Eyes" trailer then just click on the video below:

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

Producer Peter Locke has a memorable cameo as Mercury, the imbecile-sounding gang member with the feathered head-dress who is only spotted twice throughout the film, firstly at Fred's garage and secondly communicating with Mars and Pluto using a USAF radio.

The dead dog used as a stand-in for the family's slaughtered Alsatian 'Beauty', widely believed to be a dummy dog, was in fact a real (already dead) dog that director Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke had bought from the county sheriff's department.

Many of the props in the feral family's cave were from Robert A. Burns's previous project, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

There were two babies that were used in the film as the same character (Katy) though the baby is only credited as Brenda Marinoff.

The desert locations for the film were extremely rough on the crew. Not only was the rocky terrain difficult to walk, let alone run through, but the temperature would reach up to 120 degrees during the day. After sunset though it would drop to a cold 30 degrees in a matter of minutes.

According to star Robert Houston the audition process for the film depended a lot on whether or not an actor could cry on cue.

In an interview with star Suze Lanier-Bramlett she said that her agent strongly opposed her taking a role in the film fearing that it could ruin her career opportunities. However Lanier, who was a fan of the horror genre, liked Wes Craven so much that she went ahead and took the role of Brenda Carter anyway.

Janus Blythe, who plays Ruby in the film, was originally auditioned for the role of Lynne Wood. Blythe however wanted the role of Ruby instead.

Robert Houston was actually the second choice for Bobby Carter and landed the role because the original actor left the production after reading the script.

The locations for the film were 30 miles from civilization and the cast and crew had to cram themselves into a few Winnebagos to be driven to location.

According to Wes Craven the film was shot on cameras rented from a famous California pornographer.

Auditioning for the role of Ruby required the actresses to have a foot race. When Wes Craven shouted for the actresses to go, Janus Blythe stood behind for a moment. Then after a moment took off and beat all the other actresses to the finish line. She was given the role.

Janus Blythe said Wes Craven kept insisting that she be covered in more dirt through out shooting because she looked too pretty to have been living in a desert all of her life.

Dee Wallace said little acting was required in the scene where Lynne encounters the tarantula. Wallace said her fear of the spider was very much authentic.

For the scene where the feral family is eating Bob, the actors were actually eating a leg of lamb roast.

According to Suze Lanier-Bramlett the tension was at first quite high when the crew prepared to shoot the scene where Pluto rapes Brenda. As a gag to break the ice for everyone Lanier and Michael Berryman started making out during the first take. The whole crew laughed hysterically.

According to Wes Craven the idea of actually having the baby killed in the film was considered. However the cast and crew strongly opposed the idea saying they would leave if the plot went that route.

The rattlesnake used in the film actually escaped while preparing to shoot a scene in a narrow mountain crevasse. The entire crew fled at once from the narrow passage frightened. Minutes later the snake wrangler went in and recaptured the snake.

Wes Craven's original title for the film was 'Blood Relations'. Producer Peter Locke however disliked the title. Numerous titles were then considered and the film tested best under the title 'The Hills Have Eyes', though Craven himself initially disliked the title.

Virginia Vincent's reaction to being shot was quite genuine as there was a mishap with the squib planted under her robe. The small explosion caused her a deal of pain and she was briefly taken to the hospital.

Janus Blythe at first refused to pick up the rattlesnake in the film. Producer Peter Locke tried to convince her to pick it up, but Blythe said she would only do it if Locke would pick it up too. Peter Locke quickly touched the snake and Blythe complied by picking up the snake in the scene.

Michael Berryman's condition (Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia) means he has a lack of sweat glands, among other things. Despite this, he worked on the movie for five months in 100+ degrees heat out in the desert.

The similarities to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were intentional as Wes Craven was a huge fan of Tobe Hooper's film. He considered his film in part an homage to it.

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