The Hills Have Eyes, 1977.
Directed by Wes Craven.
Starring Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, John Steadman, Russ Grieve, Janus Blythe, Martin Speer.
Wes Craven’s seminal mutant cannibal shocker inexplicably gets the Arrow Video 4K UHD treatment.
No, you are not going mad; you have seen a review of Arrow Video’s release of The Hills Have Eyes on this very site before. That was back in 2016 when the cult movie specialists gave Wes Craven’s infamous 1977 grindhouse film a 4K restoration in a limited edition Blu-ray set featuring the movie, a ton of extras such as interviews and behind-the-scenes featurettes, collector’s booklet, audio commentaries, reversible sleeve, poster and postcards, and a pretty definitive release it was.
Move forward five years and Arrow have poured all their resources into releasing a 4K UHD package which, considering the considerable back catalogue of titles they could have chosen from had they not wanted to release a new title in that format, seems to be something of a thankless task, especially if you purchased the previous Blu-ray release.
The movie itself still stands up as a nasty piece of exploitation terror as an all-American family become stranded in the Californian desert and find themselves the target of a clan of mutant cannibals that live in the hills, ultimately turning the tables and becoming the very thing they were trying to fight in order to survive. It features a young Dee Wallace and the iconic Michael Berryman, spawned a ridiculous but fun sequel and a remake that was arguably better and more terrifying, but if you want to see a more detailed breakdown of the movie then the previous review is still available on this site and is still applicable, hence the same star rating at the bottom of this page.
However, there may be fans of the movie who own a 4K UHD player and want to know if it is worth spending out another £30 on a movie that they likely already own, and the answer to that is probably not. The movie itself is very grainy – as it has been on all the previous formats – and was shot on cheap film stock so there is only so much tidying up you can do to it, and seeing as the Blu-ray was such a substantial leap forward from the DVD there doesn’t appear to be much difference watching it on UHD – if anything, the excessive grain seems even more pronounced thanks to the slightly tweaked colour palette. This version does also come with lossless 2.0 stereo and 7.1 audio remixes, which the previous release did not, but seeing as this is hardly like watching a concert movie when it comes to score and dialogue it doesn’t make that much of a difference to the overall experience.
But surely Arrow have bundled in some more exclusive extras to make it worthwhile? Well, seeing how extensive the previous limited edition was when it came to supplementary material it seems unlikely that there is much more in the vault that hasn’t been seen, and that appears to be the case as this set features exactly the same special features on the disc as well coming packaged with the same six postcards, poster, booklet and hard box to hold it all in. Yes, it all looks nice and shiny and deserves a place on any collector’s shelf but double-dipping in this case really does mean having all the same things again, extra features and collectibles.
So, as a movie The Hills Have Eyes is still a great time and, if anything, gets a little campier as the years go by thanks to the 1970s depiction of how a feral clan of cannibals would look. The included documentary about the film in the special features is also very informative and worth checking out if you haven’t seen it before (which you probably have if you bought the movie on any format released since 2000) so, basically, if you don’t own this movie, fancy buying it and you have a 4K player then this is the version to get. If, however, you shelled out for Arrow’s previous Blu-ray release and are in two minds about whether to upgrade then it might be wiser to save your pennies and wait until Arrow put out a title that would really benefit from the format change, unless you think a few slightly richer background colours and an improved audio mix – which are only noticeable if you have a proper surround sound system – are worth shelling out for then Arrow Video have heard your call and answered with this release. The saying ‘You pays your money, you takes your choice’ has never seemed more appropriate.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★