The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

hills have eyes poster 1977 movie wes craven
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Gritty '70s horror, Michael Berryman as Pluto

The ending is a little anti-climatic

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Hills Have Eyes

Studio:  Vanguard

Genre(s):  Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  July 22, 1977

MPAA Rating:  R

hills have eyes john steadman dee wallace susan lanier

They’ll sure enjoy eating you…I mean meeting you

A family’s cross-country trip to California takes a bad turn when they crash their car and camper in a former military testing range in the desert.  Trapped in the desert, they are menaced by a strange family of cannibalistic mutants who live in the hills.  Now hunted, the family (Russ Grieve, Virginia Vincent, Dee Wallace, Martin Speer, Robert Houston, and Susan Lanier) has to find a way to survive against Papa Jupiter (James Whitworth) and his savage family Mars (Lance Gordon), Ruby (Janus Blythe), Mercury (Arthur King), Mama, (Cordy Clark), and Pluto (Michael Berryman).

Directed by Wes Craven, The Hills Have Eyes is a horror survival film.  It is loosely based on the story of the Sawney Bean family in Scotland in 15th and 16th century that killed and cannibalized travelers.  The movie quickly gained a cult following and spawned a sequel in 1985 (which Wes Craven later disowned) and a third movie for HBO which had no ties to the previous two films.

The Hills Have Eyes was one of those kind of legendary films when you were growing up.  It was considered one of the scarier films and the menacing poster of John Berryman gave a bit of insanity to the reputation of the film.  Wes Craven was really establishing himself as a director (which really sparked with his ultra-violent Last House on the Left in 1972), and The Hills Have Eyes is a worthy addition to his collection.

hills have eyes 1977 cannibal family

Why didn’t the Gilligan’s Island cast ever meet these cannibals?

The Hills Have Eyes is a gritty film that has that ’70s horror film that has often tried to be copied.  The movie was allegedly shot on cameras borrowed from porn filmmaker and has a quality that is while stylish weirdly trashy too.  It is shot simplistically and in its simplicity, it builds a sense of terror.  There aren’t a lot of jumps in the film, but it feels like true horror.  The film was originally going to be rated X but Wes Craven cut it down to get the R-Rating (unfortunately, the X-Rated version has allegedly been lost).  For the characters to survive, the family to survive, they must get as violent and rough as the Jupiter and his crew.

The real catch of the movie is the creepy family of Jupiter.  They are dirty, and of course the highlight of the family is Pluto.  The actor Michael Berryman who plays him, has stated he suffers from twenty-six birth defects which includes hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia which doesn’t allow him to grow hair, sweat glands, or fingernails (and it makes it awful tough to shoot in the heat of the desert).  His odd look is natural and as a decent actor, he makes his part in the gross family a standout in the film.

hills have eyes brenda pluto rape scene susan lanier michael berryman

I love going on vacation!

Though the movie trucks along, the ending is a little anticlimactic.  The final throw-down with Jupiter at the trailer is good, but Ruby and the rattlesnakes are a bit weak.  It does show that the characters have adopted a “to win war, they must become war” mentality that allowed them to survive but also made them as brutal as Jupiter and his kin.

The Hills Have Eyes has a creepy feel and a darkness like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (which admittedly is a bit better, but the acting in this is better).  The movie shows Wes Craven as he’s finding his feet and I kind of like the style of his earlier films better than is later films which don’t feel as gritty.  The Hills Have Eyes was remade in 2006 with a sequel in 2007 (both produced by Wes Craven).  The Hills Have Eyes was followed by The Hills Have Eyes Part II in 1984.

Related Links:

The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984)

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response