In a day and age where films, and TV, are drawing upon the success (monetarily or otherwise) of past projects – either as a direct remake or in the influence of – we take a look at modern day projects and the various influences that bind them.
This is the first installment, of a series of articles that will explore these modern day masterpieces, and complete a breakdown of all their influences — or at least the ones we managed to recognize. This week will be slightly different, in that, we already know our modern flick’s influences, because it is a remake of its 1977 predecessor, THE HILLS HAVE EYES — in honor of the recent birthday (Tuesday, August 2nd) of its iconic director, Wes Craven.
To a man that shocked us, with a visit to the LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Or heeded us warning that THE HILLS HAVE EYES. From creating a bunch of Insomniacs with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, to giving us a hero we truly deserved, with SWAMP THING. A man who begged the question: “What’s your favorite Scary Movie?” in SCREAM.
Wes Craven found new and inventive ways to repulse us, shock us, and fear everyday things — e.g., The Hills, Sleeping, or the RED EYE, just to name a few. Naturally, when a film creates such a visceral reaction it comes as a bit of a shock to hear that someone wants to come along and remake said film — only to capitalize on the name and energy of the original. In this instance, Wes Craven himself sought after the remake — after seeing the success of recent remakes of the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. If Wes Craven’s involvement wasn’t reassuring enough, he called upon HIGH TENSION ( or HAUTE TENSION) director, Alexandre Aja, to take on the task of directing the remake. HIGH TENSION was a masterpiece in and of itself — displaying non-stop brutality and some of the most realistic death scenes to date (sound familiar? THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT). Both Craven and Aja, are masters of creating these jaw-dropping moments — moments we can’t shake from our grey matter — and both renditions of THE HILLS HAVE EYES are a prime example of that.
When the original was released in 1977, it was helmed as being “disgusting”, and “trashy”, but now is considered one of the most controversial horror films of all time — appreciated by a massive cult following. Films, especially the dark ones, age like a fine cheap wine: every sip is as strong as the first time you sipped it. In viewing these films, to discuss them both side by side, I realized how alike they are: each viewing was as intense as the previous. Both do a great job of making a villain out of the titular HILLS. Each one has an excellent panning long the peaks of the hills, showcasing their crooked and malevolent nature — although beautiful to look at, underneath, lies an immense danger. Now, this is where both directors styles start to show: in the 77 version, Craven does a good job of building up the character of Fred (Joseph Steadman) and Ruby (Janus Blythe), while Aja quickly moves into some pretty awesome gore territory — killing of two HAZMAT clothed individuals. The 2006 counterpart utilizes it’s advance in technology by being able to showcase the desolate nature of the desert in a shorter amount of time, therefore leaving some room for instant carnage.
With the intro to the Carters, both display a good ole fashioned, Red, White, and Blue, All-American Family. The obvious differences between the original and remake are mostly due to the time difference, but one of the more standout differences is Big Bob. In the original, Big Bob (Russ Grieve) is unlikable: a bit of a racist, mixed with some misogyny. Now, given Craven’s filmmaking style this was more than likely written to satire the All-American dad image — retired cop, tough love advocate, and loves his guns. This is something that the remake’s Big Bob (Ted Levine) still mirrors, however he packs on the charm. There’s something about that Ted Levine swagger — which was said to be mostly improvised — that invests you in the character: could have something to do with the lack of racial slurs and the general fair treatment of his wife.
The supporting cast is pretty much dealt the same hand in each of the films — they’re there to get us emotionally invested and destroy us with their inevitable demise. The standout in the remake is Doug’s character, played by Aaron Stanford, who turns into the ultimate badass, and goes through one hell of a journey for redemption. All of the iconic disturbing moments are still intact — Brenda’s rape, or Bob’s burn — but the original does manage to up the ante with the inclusion of the Magnum pistol to the head of the baby, Catherine (Maisie Camilleri Preziosi).
Overall, the beauty of the 2006 film is that it honors the original in so many ways, and the details that it does change, it does so with nothing but admiration. The shock value of the original came from the portrayal of these acts never before seen on a big screen! If its one thing Craven knew how to sell, was the idea of probability: could this happen to me? Craven wanted the audience to relate to this everyday family, so when chaos ensues so does the inner turmoil. The other thing Craven does is humanizes the cannibal family which ups the level of disturbing. I’m sure, somewhere in the back of Aja’s head, he knew he could never surpass the original, but what he could do is enhance. With the help of Greg Nicotero, and KNB FX, they merged some of the best makeup effects, gore and prosthetic, with CGI seamlessly. It made the death of Big Bob that much more brutal, as well as Doug’s bloody revenge. If anything, the remake just gave all those grisly images, that the original implanted within us, a high definition, gory, update. Especially when it came to the mutants. The mutants from the original had to rely on their performance since prosthetics were minimal. But, with some clever, creepy dialogue — “Baby’s Fat… You fat, fat and juicy… ugh” — and some amazing acting from Michael Berryman (Pluto) and Lance Gordon (Mars), the original still holds up on the disturbing factor. With the phenomenal makeup effects and updated production equipment — here’s a Did you know, all the original camera equipment was rented from a famous pornographer — the remake manages to be a film worthy to dawn that iconic title.
For those that have seen these two iconic films, sound off below, and let us know your opinions. Both can be purchased in marketplaces — digital and physical (are there anymore of those?) — right now! So why not plan a viewing in honor of the life of one of the best horror directors this world had to offer and make it terror-ific weekend.
Now the remake