By Julie Lavelle
For fans of the horror/exploitation genre, Wes Craven’s early films are required viewing. For newcomers to the genre they are a great starting point; the films genuinely terrify despite their lack of production value, experienced actors, or special effects. In his second film, 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes, Craven revisits themes from his profoundly disturbing directorial debut, Last House on the Left (1973). The film initially asks us to identify with the Carters, a white-bread, gun-toting, RV-driving, blonde haired archetypal American family. When they set out on their ill-conceived search for a defunct silver mine in the southwest, you want them to listen to the old gas station attendant (and progenitor of the evil breed who will ravage the Carters) who sagely warns them to “stay on the main road, you hear?”. Soon the unwitting family is terrorized by a family of cannibals who live in the barren hills of the desert. Craven locates monstrosity or “otherness” within the family by setting up a mirror image between the “normal” family and the “monstrous” cannibal family. However, the lines that divide these two families blur as the narrative progresses, and the viewer is left unsure where (if anywhere) their sympathy lies.