Wes Craven, the Director of films in both the "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" franchises is known for his work in the horror genre. Freddy Kreuger has become a pop culture icon and the Scream movies have become a pop culture franchise. Wes Craven may be the master of horror, but even Wes has to start somewhere. Unfortunately, this 1977 version of this film is it.
"The Hills Have Eyes" starts out with your typical American family taking a typical cross-country vacation. In typical fashion, a creepy old man assures them that veering off the main road would be a colossal mistake. Naturally, the Father claims that it's B.S. and decides to stray off the beaten path and then suddenly realizes that he's in the middle of an Air Force bombing site. The shock of seeing fighter jets right above their lovely station wagon/camper combo caused poor ol' dad to crash, which broke the back axel of his vehicle. Now stranded in the middle of nowhere, the Carter family has to beware of the strange cannibalistic family that lives within the test site.
I'm not exactly sure if this movie has a bad case of aging or whether it was this hokey back in the 70's but I found this film to be boring and uninteresting. The elements of the movie that could have been interesting such as the antagonists of the film weren't fleshed out enough. Outside of a 20 second explanation by the creepy old guy, nothing else is said about how these cannibals came to be or what they were about. The acting was also B-list at best and so was the cast. The performances are forced in a way that it makes it difficult to relate to and has 70's cheese written all over them. Not only that, but the movie ends with tons of questions unanswered. Do they ever get saved? What happened to Ruby and her mother? So not only do I get bad acting and a lightweight script, I also get no resolution as to what happens after the Carter's get the upper hand. I get the whole nature vs. nurture aspect of the story line, but it's conceived in a way that's uneven and unappealing to watch.
"The Hills Have Eyes" is shown in a widescreen aspect ratio that seems to be 1.78:1 although it's hard to really know for sure. First of all, the picture is atrocious with all the color fade, grain and artifacting that would be seen in the original 70's transfer. Nothing was seemingly done to this to make it look any better.
The boxart for this movie claims this movie to have 5.1 quality sound and it's half-right. Although the actual sound quality sounds exactly the same as it probably did in 1977, the directional audio is actually quite good. I'm surprised they went to the trouble of nailing the directional audio when the rest of the presentation is severely lacking. Not only that, but no extras to speak of are present on this UMD.
"The Hills Have Eyes" is a cult classic that has its fanbase and unfortunately, I'm not among those fans. I found the movie to have aged terribly and doing nothing in the way of film restoration for this UMD made matters worse. It kind of makes me wonder why this movie is out on UMD at all as it seems like it's such a niche title.