Wes Craven is most well known for his iconic films Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream, but this Master of Horror is far more than a Slasher filmmaker. Craven also made some of the most influential American Exploitation films of all time, first with the hugely controversial Last House On The Left, and then with The Hills Have Eyes. Hills, along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was largely influenced by the stories of the Sawney Bean clan. According to the storey, Bean and his family lived in an isolated cave somewhere in Scotland, and practised cannibalism and inbreeding. The whole thing started because Bean decided that honest work wasn’t what he felt like doing, and instead he and his mad cannibal clan would attack travellers who passed their way, by laying traps or ambushes, killing, raping, and eating thousands before they were finally caught. How much truth there may be to this story is up for debate, but regardless, it makes for a compelling story.
The Hills Have Eyes tells the tale of two families, both just trying to survive. The vacationing Carter family, and the cannibalistic Jupiter Clan. After straying from the main road, the Carters are slowly picked off by the Jupiter clan, until the Carters fight back. While the struggle for survival is obvious in the Carters, just trying to fend off the attacks of the mad cannibals and make it out of the desert in one piece. What always struck me as interesting is that with the possible exception of Papa Jupiter, the Cannibals are not evil, they have just been raised to live this way, eating whatever they can, scavenging meager supplies where and when they can, and like the Carters, looking out for one another. The tone of the film plays things tense and dirty, asking the audience “What lengths will you to when survival is on the line?”. This film is iconic in many ways, but possibly the most well known of which is the Introduction of Michael Berryman
I love that weird looking fucker. I really do. Which brings me around to what I like most about the film. While one can easily get caught up in the Horror of the story itself, the legend that inspired it, or even in the social commentary contained within, the film has just enough silliness to make it fun to watch. Look at Berryman for fuck sakes…Dude is a living cartoon! Doug and Bobby are wearing shorts so short I’m surprised their balls aren’t popping out the sides! Doug straight up looks like Keith Hart!
See? It’s awesome. To me, the ridiculous elements are a huge part of why I love Horror films in the first place. Its the balance between the Macabre and the Absurd. If you want to interpret this as a desire to face our fear of death in a cathartic and safe way and overcome said fear with laughter, then go right ahead. I’m pretty sure it comes from being raised on Looney Tunes and monster movies in equal measure. Halloween is just around the corner, and with it, comes our modern traditions of making light of what was traditionally a fairly spooky occasion. We hide behind the faces of devils and gorge ourselves on sweets while trying our best to give each other scares. We make the darkness fun. And I can’t fucking wait!
Stay tuned for this years installment of #31DaysOfHorror, Creeps!