Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 1st, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1977
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Cast: John Steadman, Janus Blythe, Peter Locke, Russ Grieve, Virginia Vincent, Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Dee Wallace, Brenda Marinoff, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, James Whitworth, Michael Berryman, Lance Gordon, Cordy Clark, Flora, Striker
BluRay released: October 3rd, 2016 (UK) / October 11th, 2016 (USA)
Approximate running time: 90 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £17.99 (UK)
The premise for The Hills Have Eyes is ripe with possibilities and Craven who also wrote the screenplay for the film exploits this premise for all its worth. The meticulously constructed narrative does a great job establishing the mood and when it comes to pacing there are no issues as this is yet another area where this film excels. Key moments are given an ample amount of time to fully resonate and the mood that is established very early on builds to fever pitch by the film’s finale.
From a production stand point there is not an area where this film does not deliver and then some. With one of the most durable assets of this film being its main location the desert and how it reinforces the families sense of isolation. And this sense of isolation is firmly reinforced by the visuals which take full advantage of the main desert location.
Performance wise, the entire cast are very good in their respective roles. And nowhere is more evident then in how the by the film’s finale the family and the cannibals that attacked have become indistinguishable.
Five years after he shocked audiences with his debut film The Last House on the Left, Wes Craven would follow that up with the equally disturbing The Hills Have Eyes.
The Hills Have Eyes comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand new 4K transfer has been created and supervised by producer Peter Locke. This film was shot on 16mm and there is a healthy amount of grain that always looks film like. Color reproduction has never looked stronger, black levels remain strong throughout and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. The audio is in great shape; dialog is always clear and balanced. Range wise this audio mix sounds robust when it needs too and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented.
Extras for this release include, an image gallery, T.V. spots (1 minute 51 seconds), U.S. trailer (2 minutes 39 seconds), German trailer (2 minutes 42 seconds), outtakes (18 minutes 55 seconds), an option to watch an alternate ending by itself (11 minutes 32 seconds) or added back into the film, two interviews – the first interview with actor Martin Speer titled Family Business (16 minutes 5 seconds) and the second interview with composer Don Peake titled The Desert Sessions (10 minutes 57 seconds), a documentary titled Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes (54 minutes 33 seconds) and three audio commentaries – the first audio commentary with director Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke, the second audio commentary with actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Susan Lanier and Martin Speer and the third audio commentary with academic Mikel J. Koven.
Topics discussed in the interview with Martin Speer include, his audition which lead to him being cast, the main location Apple valley, how the days were very hot and the nights were extremely cold, the cast, how the film took some time to find its audience and interacting with fans of the film at horror conventions.
Topics discussed in the interview with Don Peake include, Wes Craven and how he was offered the opportunity to score the film, what he was trying to achieve when composing the score, how Wes Craven and Peter Locke initially did not like the score.
The extra titled Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes is a documentary from 2003 and it includes comments from Wes Craven, Peter Locke, actors Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier and director of photography Eric Saarinen. Topics discussed in this extra include, Craven explains how he was a late bloomer when it came to filmmaking, Sean Cunningham and The Last House on the Left, Peter Locke and The Hills Have Eyes, scouting for locations and why they chose Apple valley, how the film was shot on 16mm, the cast and casting and their thoughts about the film.
The first audio commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke is carried over from a previous release and the other two audio commentaries are brand new tracks made for this release. Content wise the Craven and Locke audio commentary is a production focused track that gives a detailed account about the areas of the film’s production. The second audio commentary track with the cast is an informal discussion and a few topics include, Wes Craven, their thoughts on the characters they portrayed and various difficulties that occurred while making the film. The third audio commentary is a insightful and detailed account of the film and those involved in making it.
Rounding out the extras is six postcards, reversible fold-out poster featuring new and original artwork, original Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content), reversible covert art option and a limited edition thirty-eight-page booklet with cast & crew info, two essays – the first essay titled Family Activities: Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes written by Brad Stevens and the second essay titled The Hills Still Have Eyes written Ewan Cant and information about the transfer. Overall The Hills Have Eyes gets a fully loaded release from Arrow Video that comes with a solid audio / video presentation and wealth of extra content, highly recommended.