It's hard for me to say if I really liked this film or not, because in my opinion it has an even split between good and bad points.
To be frank, this movie does leave a lot of unanswered questions. How many mutants are there? Who is related to whom? Which one is which? Why did the gas station attendant receive such an interesting bonus? And most importantly, does special effects artist Greg Nicatero ever sleep?
Speaking of Greg Nicatero, I'll start off by saying that the makeup and effects were extremely impressive. However, I do think they must have been very proud of themselves with the pickaxe-in-the-head gag, as we see it quite often over the course of the film. In any event, Mr. Nicatero has always been good with heads, so I'll forgive the repetitive mode of death since he does such a great job with it.
The opening scene actually got a jump out of my husband, which means that it would likely startle the Hell out of a normal person. Throughout the film there are a lot of sudden shocks that are executed well and go off the beaten trail of standard scary movie timing that horror fans have long become accustomed to.
For the first half of the movie, the story unfolds fairly faithfully to the original with only a few minor changes, right down to the scenes that got PETA-minded people all up at arms the first time around. And the audience still gushes with disbelief that they'd go there.
Where exactly the story begins to derail from the original is clearly marked by a nuclear testing village. Yes, the mutants have upgraded from being cave-dwellers and now live cozy lives in a government-built nuclear staging area complete with electricity. It's nice to know that little mutant children are being raised with the benefit of television too.
One thing that I found a bit confusing was playing the "who's who" guessing game when it came to the mutants. Their backstory changed significantly and although Jupiter was named in the beginning, it's difficult to say for sure exactly which one he was. While it is suggested to us a few times that old Jupiter is romping around in the hills, the one who seems to call the important shots is anything but independently mobile.
Also missing was any important female roles on the mutant side. My biggest complain with the original The Hills Have Eyes was that they never offered any closure on Mama's fate. This version did the exact same thing…assuming the one adult woman we saw was in fact Mama. And while we hear Ruby's name yelled a few times during the film, there really isn't much solid character build-up on the one I dubbed "Little Red Riding Mutant".
As far as the normal folks go, they seem to be the typical American family… lots of bickering and bitchiness between kin, outright hostility between in-laws, and a couple kids who are going to need lots of additional therapy if they make it out of the desert.
Much like the original, this remake includes the "Create Your Own Ending" feature. After our nerd-turned-superhero emerges from the hills, I expected him to come up with some McGuyver-like solution as to how the survivors were going to get out of the desert after the kids disposed of any food or water they might have had handy. But alas, we will never know. Personally, I'd choose death by pickaxe-to-the-head over dehydrating in the desert any day.
Film information: The Hills Have Eyes
The Original Film: