The Hills Have Eyes: Unrated Alexandre Aja

It’s a refreshing change to actually take pleasure in a horror remake, even more so in a second viewing. As the genre is constantly plagued with unoriginal, big budget schlock, it’s a wise decision to have the director of the grisly High Tension — a film that had everything going for it until that detrimental twist ending — at the helm. Originally released in 1977 without much fanfare and to this day only a cult fave, Aja’s updated take on The Hills Have Eyes should go down in the record books as the first remake to better a decent original. In doing so, he’s altered the story: on a cross-country drive, a family is deviously misguided into a secluded area overrun by a family of deformed, murderous cannibals, who have spent their lives living in a government-built nuclear test village. The differences aren’t drastic but they do improve the story, shedding some light on the villains’ tormented background and revealing their horrid existence. As well, Aja has upped the gore, the mutant make-up and the overall horror of the film, so much so that the tale of "kill or be killed” becomes that much more serious — and entertaining. Bypass the dull commentary by Aja, art director/co-screenwriter Gregory Levasseur and producer Marianne Maddalena, and go right to the one provided by Wes Craven and Peter Locke, the original’s creators, as well as the remake’s producers. Here, the old friends have a ball watching the film, commenting on the differences between the two versions and throwing jokes in every opportunity they get. A 50-minute "making of” takes you behind the scenes and helps explain the vision of Aja and Levasseur, who ecstatically came into the project looking to put their own twist on it. Everything from the choice of shooting location to the complexities of scenes, such as the orchestrated car crash and Big Bob burning on the tree, supply consistently engrossing information. Plus: production diaries. (Fox)