The Hills have Eyes

 

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The Hills Have Eyes

Poster by Lachlan Rattray

Text by Alex Hetherington

 

The films are saturated with depictions of intense social alienation resulting in torturous savage destruction. They breathe heavy life into methods of cruel, enraged but explicable revenge (and often in Craven’s films the extensive clever use of booby traps, killer set-ups and tripwires).

 

These films gleefully construct brutally manipulated distortions of core social values and ethics through extreme bad luck. They all have abrupt unsympathetic endings, mere hints at a kind of escape. Similar themes of mutation, hunger, desperation, mayhem, suppression and oppression run clearly through the dirtied central nervous systems of the movies’ paranoid civilised American or Middle Classes. In turn they touch on corrupted, obsolete or over-trusted technology: walkie-talkies, broken-down cars, two-way radio, out-of-order telephones, power tools, bad science, capitalism or government, particularly radioactive metamorphosis, lay-offs and unemployment, ghost towns, depleted resources, the military, ‘strange nature’ and subtle signs of sexual and West coast deviance: drugs, “en route to California”, the Mamas and Papas, a free love Leather Face in drag lipstick and powder: “you never used language like that before you moved to New York City”.

‘The Hills Have Eyes’ is a simple depiction of two families gone awry and lost in the backwaters of a judgmental America. A trailer home policeman retiree and his clan on vacation heading for Hollywood, via a derelict silver mine in Nevada “Stay on the main road, y’hear!” rub shoulders with a set of inbred drop-out fallout mutants, who use binoculars and walkie-talkies and shaman outfits to do very heinous deeds and you can tell they are criminal: they have bad teeth. All the while warped fairy stories of youth

in crisis, patriarchal gun-toting authority figures, who inevitably end up being crucified

to cactus plants, and wildly dysfunctional family units with savage offspring inhabit these films. Scenes of extreme violence are top and tailed with rabbitts.

In the American desert landscape characters are operatically named after the planets: Mars, Pluto and Mercury and the plot echoes real life murder and brutality: Sawney

Bean and Ed Gein.‘The Hills Have Eyes’

 

is a hyperaware intertextual trigger, setting up the filmmaker’s later Scream series,

a Post-modern emblem of self-referencing, self-mirroring peeping tom self-consciousness with all the clues and cues from horror film critique: ‘The Final Girl’, ‘Men, Women and Chainsaws’, and ‘The Monstrous Feminine’. A poster for Steven Speilberg’s ‘Jaws’ (1975) is seen cut in half in ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ on the walls of a derelict garage, in turn Sam Raimi places a torn poster for ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ in the basement of his cabin in the woods in ‘Evil Dead’ (1981) and Craven returns the favour by having the cast of his

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984) watch ‘Evil Dead’ on TV: monsters replacing and negating monsters, monsters trip-wiring and booby trapping monsters, mirroring our own hunger for the next Jason, Papa Jupiter, Michael Myers, Freddy, Jigsaw, Mark Lewis, Asami Yamazaki, Samara or Hannibal. Craven, meanwhile, a high school teacher who worked in porn films for a better pay packet turned to extreme brutalist exploitation

films that went mainstream but were lucratively edgy, like his own American hypertext. Craven’s work is a horror film replacement and negation, always dying but never dead, always ready for reinvention, a remake, a sequel or prequel, remixed crossover, a ‘get to the 90 minute mark and stop’ style of filmmaking. Alex Hetherington’s projects 2009–2012 include Artists Books, DCA, Dundee, StreetLevel Open, Glasgow, The New York Times, after Ulrike Müller, at Sonica, Glasgow, Cave Art Fair, Liverpool, Cycling Through, Tramway, Parallel, Henry Fool, Inspace at Annuale 2012, Belle Helaine for The Briggait, Triangle of Need, Creative Lab/Alt-W at Inspace and at Signal & Noise 10, Vancouver, Canada and Heavy Influence for ESW, both Edinburgh Art Festival, the installation Leves Vos Skinny Fists Comme Antennas to Heaven for The Embassy, the performance Untitled (2011) at Edinburgh International Film Festival, the film Linda Fratianne for CCA, which has screened internationally and recent writing on Edgar Schmitz, Rosemarie Trockel, Kate V Robertson, Darren Banks, Trisha Donnelly, Anne Colvin, Catherine Sullivan, Tim Rollins & K.O.S. and Kai-Oi Jay Yung. He is currently producing Modern Edinburgh Film School, ESW, Embassy, New Media Scotland and Lux, spring 2013, a new film and publication season.