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Film / The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

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"The lucky ones died first."

A horror film by Wes Craven and starring Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, and Susan Lanier.

A typical American family is on vacation and cut through the desert to save time, but end up stranded in the middle of it when their RV crashes. They are soon besieged by a family of cannibals.

It can be seen as a statement on what people will do to survive and how the family unit can be corrupted, or a hardcore Gorn flick with some genuinely disturbing images.

A sequel was released in 1984. There's also a remake, which was released in 2006.

This film has examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Jupiter and Mama to Ruby, who they chain up and emotionally abuse for daring to run away. Given how afraid Pluto and Mars are of him, it's more than likely that Jupiter has been violent towards them as well—and in any case, raising them to be cannibalistic killers is pretty abusive in and of itself.
    • On the other side, Bob, a racist cop whose constant shouting at his wife and kids probably constitutes emotional abuse.
  • Action Pet: Beast, who is the single most competent member of the cast, scaring the Devil out of Jupiter's family whenever he appears, bringing Doug the radio he stole from Mercury so that they can listen in on Jupiter's plans, and killing not one, but two members of the Cannibal Clan.
  • Action Survivor: Doug, Brenda, and Bobby make it out of the movie, after dispatching Jupiter and Mars.
  • Anyone Can Die: Not even the pets were safe. The director talked about possibly killing off the baby, only for the crew to threaten to leave if this was done.
  • Animal Assassin: Ruby uses a rattlesnake to poison Mars.
  • The Alcoholic: Mama, Jupiter's wife, is perpetually hammered, and sits out the climax due to being in a drunken stupor.
  • Asshole Victim: Downplayed. The first two people to die in the film are Fred, who has been an accessory to his son's crimes for years, and Bob, a bigot whose screentime mostly consisted of yelling at his family, throwing around racist slurs, and treating his wife and daughters as incompetents who should be bossed by his (idiot) son. Both are still characterized well-enough that you can feel sorry for them (especially given the horrid nature of their deaths), but they're certainly the least sympathetic members of the cast after the Clan themselves.
  • Ax-Crazy: Most of the Clan, but especially Jupiter and Mars.
  • Bald of Evil: Pluto. His actor suffers from a skin condition that does not allow him to grow any hair (or fingernails or teeth).
  • Bandit Clan: Papa Jupiter and his family rob and murder travelers in the Nevada desert.
  • Beard of Evil: Papa Jupiter has an impressively ugly beard covering his maimed face.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Ruby has no physical deformities and is by far the most attractive member of the Clan; she is also its White Sheep who does anything she can to help the traveling family that the other members of her family have victimized. Apparently, Wes Craven recognized this and would demand Janus Blythe put on more dirt to disguise her good looks, and to do so she would roll around in the dirt outside her trailer.
  • Big Bad: Papa Jupiter.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Grandpa Fred's a bitter old man who's lost everything, Papa Jupiter's a sadistic monster who teaches his children to rob and eat travelers, Mama's an alcoholic who abuses her daughter, Mercury's a mentally handicapped simpleton who barely understands that what the family's doing is wrong, Pluto's a Psychopathic Manchild with a disfiguring skin condition, Mars is a sociopathic killer and rapist in the same vein as his father, and Ruby, the White Sheep, is a traumatized abuse victim who just wants out.
  • Cain and Abel:
    • According to Fred, Jupiter and his older sister were like this, with her being an angel and him a mutant devil. She died in a house fire when Fred was in town buying supplies; he believes wholeheartedly that Jupiter was the one who set the fire in order to kill her.
    • Ruby, for all her terrible upbringing, ultimately turns out more like her aunt than her father, and in the end not only turns on the family but kills her brother Mars before he can add Doug to his list of victims.
  • Cannibal Clan: One of the most famous in film. When they don't have enough money to buy or barter for food, Jupiter's family eat dogs and their fellow human beings.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ethel won't stop talking about rattlesnakes. Guess what kills Mars.
  • Co-Dragons: Pluto and Mars to Jupiter.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Jupiter inflicts this on Bob, crucifying him and then setting him on fire.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Bob is crucified then burned at the stake.
  • Deadly Road Trip: The premise.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Big Bob dies first. Even his son Bobby, who survives, becomes a supporting character. It is the son-in-law, Doug, the bespectacled, physically relatively weaker one who is the real Hero.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Jupiter leaves Mars behind at the camp to watch Ruby and Katie while he and Pluto confront the surviving family members. Pluto is crippled by Beast along the route, and is also abandoned by Jupiter, who confronts Bobby and Brenda alone. The order of deaths ends up being Pluto (killed by Beast while he tries to recuperate), Jupiter (killed by Brenda and Bobby when he attacks the trailer), and finally, Mars (killed by Ruby and Doug when the latter attacks the clan's camp).
  • Driven to Suicide: Attempted with a noose, only to be foiled and subsequently replaced with a worse death.
  • Eats Babies: Jupiter plans to eat Katie after killing the rest of her family, something Pluto, Mars, and Mercury are all excited about. Preventing this from happening drives the climax of the film.
  • Enfante Terrible: Grandpa Fred saw Jupiter this way and treated him accordingly. There's little to suggest that he was wrong to do so.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jupiter is furious when his sons Mercury and Pluto are respectively killed and wounded. Pluto also seems to have cared about Mercury, playfully bantering with him when he was alive, and seeming genuinely distressed by his death.
  • Evil Cripple: Pluto's actor, Michael Berryman, suffers from Hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, a serious skin condition that causes you to be born with little to no hair, fingernails, teeth, and sweat glands, the latter three of which can be very disabling. Given that the Clan are supposed to be genetically malformed, it's likely that Pluto too suffers from some version of this condition.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Pluto is played by a 6'2 actor, Mars is a muscular behemoth and the patriarch Jupiter is even more of a size than his sons.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The two German Shepherds that characters have with them.
  • The Family That Slays Together: Jupiter's family are thieves, kidnappers, murderers, and cannibals.
  • Fade to White: The film fades to red as Doug violently kills the remaining cannibal.
  • Feuding Families: On this side, the civilized family. On this side, the cannibal clan. Winner takes all. Loser is dinner.
  • Foreshadowing: Grandpa Fred makes a few offhand comments about there being "nothing back there but animals." He's telling the truth, but leaving out the animals being cannibals.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Grandpa Fred treated Papa Jupiter as a freak from the day he was born, blaming him for his wife's death, and finally, after a housefire killed Jupiter's sister, maiming him with a tire iron and leaving him to die in the desert. Whether this made Jupiter into who he is, or if Fred is right and Jupiter was born a monster is up to the audience.
    • Pluto, Mars, and Mercury were raised by Jupiter, and have taken on his views of the world. It's not surprising they are what they are; it would be shocking if they tried to be anything else.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Jupiter's face is horribly disfigured by the extensive scarring that resulted from Fred hitting him with a tire iron.
  • Hand Cannon: Big Bob's weapon of choice
  • Heroic Dog: Beast, one of the German Shepherds. Though perhaps "antiheroic" would be a better description, given he's a Right-Hand Attack Dog who happens to be one of the good guys.
  • Hillbilly Horrors: A classic of the genre, with a middle class family menaced by a deformed Cannibal Clan in rural desert Nevada.
  • Hollywood CB:
    Ethel: Testing, testing... Maypole, maypole... This is Mama Bear Carter calling, do any of your bears have your ears up?... Gosh, I can't seem to remember how this works.
    Lynne: It's "mayday", mom, not "maypole".
  • I'm a Humanitarian: "I wanna eat the baby!"
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Bobby could not hit water if he fell out of a boat. It's not until the very end that he's able to hit Jupiter, who is a wounded, nigh-immobilized target.
  • Incoming Ham: "This here MARS!"
  • It's Personal with the Dragon:
    • Doug's hatred of Mars becomes deeply personal after the latter kills his wife, kills his mother-in-law, rapes his sister-in-law, and kidnaps his daughter so that she can be eaten. It's hardly surprising that the final confrontation of the film is between the two of them.
    • Beast seems to have it in for Pluto following Beauty's death and goes out of his way to harass the mutant wherever he goes, ultimately killing him.
  • Karmic Death: Jupiter was probably trying to invoke this when he beat his father, who once struck him with a tire iron, to death with one.
  • Kick the Dog: Poor Beauty...
  • Kill It with Fire: The villains crucify Big Bob, and set him on fire.
  • The Load: Bobby spends most the film being utterly useless, but refusing to relinquish the gun his father gave him to someone who can actually shoot. In the climax he finally helps Brenda, but the best he can do is aid her in executing her plan after he fails to think of anything.
  • Mental Handicap, Moral Deficiency: Mercury is clearly mentally handicapped and is a member of a cannibal clan.
  • Mutants: Papa Jupiter was twenty pounds at birth and the size of his father at the age of ten. His children (save for Ruby) are just as freaky, with Pluto being the most visibly different.
  • Never Trust a Title: The actual hills do not have eyes.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: This is likely how the elder Bob is supposed to be seen, though he doesn't last long enough to really demonstrate the "noble" part.
  • Odd Name Out: Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Pluto...and Ruby.
  • Offing the Offspring: Jupiter's father tried to do this to him when he murdered his mother and sister as a boy. He failed.
  • Papa Wolf: Jupiter is a villainous example. He is enraged when he finds out that Mercury was pushed off the cliff, and orders Mars to kill Katie when Beast bites open Pluto's ankle. Doug is a more traditional example, stabbing Mars to death for even trying to kill his infant daughter.
  • Parental Abandonment: Fred hit Jupiter in the face with a tire iron, then left him to die in the desert.
  • Patricide: Jupiter kills his father for trying to flee the area.
  • Pet the Dog: Pluto's interactions with the mentally handicapped Mercury serve to humanize him to some extent. Jupiter's rage over Mercury's death is a retroactive one for him.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Doug sobs this when he finds his wife's body.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The family could have been much more prepared for the cannibals' assault if Bobby had just told them what was wrong. Obviously, he was in shock, but he refused to say anything about it to anyone but Doug, until he finally spills his guts to both him and Lynn. And by then, it's already too late.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Pluto acts like a child, throwing a temper tantrum and destroying a table in the RV when Mars throws him off of Brenda to rape her himself. Mercury is even more immature, presenting as a mentally handicapped four year old.
  • Rape and Revenge: A variant. Brenda is raped by Mars. After recovering enough from the trauma to be coherent, she is the one who devises the plan to kill not her attacker but, his even more monstrous father, whom she first tries to have dragged by a car and impaled, then tries to blow up, and finally settles for crippling with an axe while her brother shoots him.
  • Rape as Drama: Brenda is raped by Mars, and spends most of the remainder of the movie traumatized.
  • Rasputinian Death: Big Bob is crucified by a pair of wooden spikes, then set on fire, and when he's put out, he finally suffocates on the smoke he inhaled.
  • Red Right Hand: Papa Jupiter has a split nose and a scarred face, while Pluto has a disfiguring skin condition. The former was the result of Jupiter's father trying to kill him with a tire iron, the latter is something Pluto was born with (and something his actor genuinely has in real life), and both act as signifiers of their owners' evil.
  • Revised Ending: There's an alternate cut where Mars' death happens before Jupiter's, and adding an extra scene of the survivors being reunited, and Ruby being apparently welcomed into the family.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Beast may be owned by the protagonists, but he otherwise fits the trope to a T, being a barely restrained killing machine with a history of mauling other people's pets. Early in the film, Brenda and her mother discuss an incident where Beast killed a neighbour's poodle, leaving them with the vet bill.
  • Sadist: Jupiter and Mars both enjoy taking their time with their victims, with the former being a torturer and the latter a rapist.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Jupiter killed his mother in childbirth and his father during the events of the film.
  • Sinister Southwest: The setting of the film is a desert that the family was traveling through on their way to Los Angeles.
  • Smarter Than You Look: They're not geniuses but Jupiter and his boys (barring the handicapped Mercury) are far more intelligent than most slasher movie villains (or most stereotypical rednecks). They keep a watch on the land surrounding their home, they communicate with walkie-talkies, they lay traps and provide distractions when they attack the trailer by setting Big Bob on fire and try dividing their prey before they attack.
  • The Sociopath: Mars checks off the entire list for both the trope and real life Antisocial Personality Disorder.
  • Son of a Whore: Jupiter's wife, referred to only as "Mama", is said to be a former prostitute by Grandpa Fred, making Mars, Mercury, Pluto, and Ruby all children of a whore.
  • Take That!: The torn poster for Jaws in the background, essentially the film marking its territory as being scarier than that one. Sam Raimi took some notice of this and featured a similarly torn poster for Hills in The Evil Dead (1981), which began a long-running (but apparently good-natured) feud between the two directors referencing each other's films.
  • Talking to the Dead: Papa Jupiter talks about how his family will devour the outsiders to Big Bob's severed head.
  • Theme Naming: All of the males in the original's cannibal family are named after planets (and, by extension, Roman gods); Ruby, the only female child, is the odd one out and the one who makes a Heel–Face Turn.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Mars is stabbed a dozen times by Doug after already being incapacitated by the snake Ruby threw at him. Papa Jupiter is dragged by a car, blown up, crippled (and probably mortally wounded) by an axe blow, and the finally shot to death.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Or rather, "desert area with a dark secret", that being the cannibals.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Mars is implied to be this to Papa Jupiter. In their first onscreen interaction, Jupiter asks him if he killed the family, and Mars backs away slowly, quite clearly intimidated.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Jupiter's wife sits out the film's climax due to being in a drunken stupor. She's never seen again.
  • White Sheep: Ruby's the one decent person in a family of robbers, killers, and cannibals.