(Review originally written at 6 March 2009)
A lot of horror movies got made during the '70's but looking back at them now, only a very small section of them actually still live up by todays standards and only the greatest are known and respected as classics, while all others have regained a more campy cult status. In that regard "The Hills Have Eyes" is really one of the better horror movies from the '70's.
It actually is such a standard and simplistic movie, that actually doesn't have much story but almost instead entirely relies on purely its simple concept of a family being stranded in the middle of the dessert, who get attacked by a couple of deformed freaks, due to nuclear testings being held around in the area. It sounds cheap and campy but the movie actually successful achieves at it to become a great, effective as well as original one within its genre.
What the movie does well is that it spends time on its build up and atmosphere. Because of this the entire movie basically has an eerie type of atmosphere, even when nothing horror-like is happening on screen. There is a constant sense of danger and unpleasantness. Because of this the simple story of the movie also works out so well. It shows that you don't need much to create a good horror movie with.
The movie is a shocker and slasher but it's yet not an exploitation movie. It doesn't exploit its violence or gore, like Wes Craven perhaps still did with his first movie "The Last House on the Left". Instead it's a more honest and realistic looking and feeling movie, even despite of its concept.
Perhaps the only mistake the movie makes it that it also tells the story too much from the viewpoint of the monstrous villains. Perhaps the movie could had been even better with its horror and tension if it hadn't been so 'close' to the movie its killers.
It also actually surprised how much the 2006 is actually alike this movie. Some scenes and dialog are just completely reused and it progresses in basically the same manner. This is a surprise since remakes always tend to be better, bigger and more spectacular to its original. No wonder I liked the remake so much as well, it's pretty much the same as this movie.
An under-appreciated '70's horror classic.