It's hard to believe now that it has been over a year since we lost Wes Craven, one of the all-time great horror filmmakers who knew better than most how to truly scare an audience. His special gift wasn't that he was the most polished of directors; with only a few exceptions (like Scream), his movies were mostly rough edges. I happen to like rough edges. No, Craven's talent was for zeroing in on our primal fears and realizing them on screen. He didn't want to spook us with tricks and jump scares and he rarely wanted the horror to be "fun." He wanted to shake us to our cores. This was especially true in much of his early work, primarily Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Hills Have Eyes, out now in a stunning limited edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
In his first few movies, Craven wanted to make movies that crossed the line because he wasn't even totally sure where the line was; growing up, he wasn't allowed to see horror movies and so he didn't have a sense of what was traditionally "acceptable" on screen. It makes his early work feel dangerous, a quality that more or less went away as his films became slicker in the '80s. There are images in The Hills Have Eyes that are particularly transgressive (the brutal murder of a dog, a baby being stolen, Bob Carter being crucified before being burned alive) but even the impact of those moments has lessened with time. What has not lessened is the overall feel of the film, which is like being dragged through dirt and sand and puddles of blood. It's sweaty and grimy and totally effective on a primal level.
Also carried over is the making-of documentary "Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes," which features reminiscences from Craven, Berryman, Dee Wallace, producer Peter Locke and several others. New to the first disc are a pair of commentaries, the first with actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Susan Lanier and Martin Speer and the second with film scholar Mikel J. Koven, plus a collection of never-seen outtakes, interviews with star Martin Speer and composer Don Peake, plus the standard collection of promotional stills, trailers and TV spots. The limited special edition comes packaged with a booklet containing essays on the film and archival pictures, plus some postcards.
Blu-ray release date: October 11, 2016
LCPM Mono (English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)
Commentary with Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke
Commentary with actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Susan Lanier and Martin Speer
Commentary by film scholar Mikel J. Koven
"Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes" retrospective featurette
Martin Speer interview
Don Peake interview