This review is part of our 31 Days of Horror series. You can check out the other posts by clicking these words.
The Carters are a typical American family travelling throughout the southwest. However, their trip takes a detour off the beaten path across the desert. They suffer a blow-out with their tyres and plough into a rock – an event that leaves them stranded in an area closed off from the rest of civilisation. The area was formerly used by the US government as a nuclear test site. It was thought to be empty – but they were wrong. The Carters gradually realise they may have fallen into a trap perpetrated by the disgruntled residents of the area, who are intent on carrying out a gruesome massacre.
I thought I was being brave when I set out to watch The Hills Have Eyes the other night, however it could be said I was actually being rather stupid. How naïve of me to think that it would be a terrific film based on the four-star rating the TV magazine had awarded it. I was mildly grossed out by the film, but was more disappointed than anything else.
I’ve long since stopped trying to keep track of the continuity that has been relentlessly contorted by the seven sequels and reboots of variable quality since Tobe Hooper’s 1974 landmark of hillbilly horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The latest installment, Leatherface, pitches itself as a canonical prequel to the original, thus overwriting the sins of previous attempts at origin stories – not that there has ever been a franchise that needed one less.
No matter. We’re back at the ramshackle Sawyer family farm in the rural Texas of 1955, where a young Jed Sawyer (Boris Kabakchiev) proves a disappointment to his maniac mother, Verna (Lili Taylor), by refusing to dismember an unfortunate fella they’ve got tied up at the dinner table. Luckily he earns his stripes by playing his dutiful role in a roadside ambush, donning a macabre cow’s head to lure a passing couple into a deadly trap. It just so happens that the victim here is the daughter of local Texas Ranger Hal Hartman (Stephen Dorff), who, because he lacks the evidence to convict Verna, instead arranges for young Jed to be committed to a state mental infirmary, Gorman House.