Wes Craven’s original picture, the follow up to Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes is a favorite of mine. Of the big four American horror dynamos of the 70’s that changed the face of the genre, Craven was probably my least favorite and continues to be just that. I never fell for A Nightmare On Elm Street and even as Scream breathed new life into an otherwise dead genre, I still never went for that one. As a matter of fact, Scream drove me fucking nuts. I liked the movie enough but I wasn’t a big fan of it. I was mostly just annoyed by the legion of young horror fans who emerged from that movie that caught up with Halloween and Prom Night and hit the same horror movie internet haunts as me declaring themselves experts on the topic. Yeah, I was a snob and continue to be in some fashion but back then I just couldn’t abide. But I’ll tell you what. The Hills Have Eyes really resonated with me. It is a nasty, nasty flick and even by modern horror standards, it remains an underdog in the story of the American horror movie. I’ve never been able to figure out why, either. Maybe it’s because it bears a lot in common with Craven’s previous picture and living in the shadow of Last House On The Left is a shitty piece of real estate. I honestly can’t say but I can say that I seriously prefer it head and shoulders over Last House.
Since it’s here in the Based On A True Story spot it must be based on a true story, right? Well, Craven’s original never made such claims. Back in the day, these indie guys didn’t have to tag their flick with marketing like that. They had lurid trailers and seedy word of mouth to drive ticket sales. It wasn’t until about five or six years ago when Hollywood decided that in order to sell your horror movie to idiots at the megaplex, you had to get them to believe that somewhere out there in the world, your average family unit was sidelined in the desert wastes of America by a tribe of inbred mutant cannibals living off the grid. It got people talking. It got people googling your movie’s title and it kept the marketing machine rolling all the way up to the film’s release whereupon every screening in America was sold out until everyone started texting their friends mid-movie with the same message: OMG THIS MOVIE IS SOOOO GAY
But I digress.
Like the other two stories in this series, The Hills Have Eyes, a movie bearing one of the sweetest titles ever, is based on an obscure bit of fact. In the film, a family on vacation cuts through a patch of the desert where their car breaks down and one by one, they’re picked off and eaten by members of an inbred tribe of cannibal desert mutants. It’s fucking riveting and I love the god damn ending!
Alexander Bean (aka Sawney Beane) was a scumbag in 16th century Scotland who ran away from home when home finally called on him to do an honest day’s labor and he took up with an equally scummy chick in a cave that was only accessible at low tide. Together, the two of them produced 14 kids in this squalid home and from there they produced 32 grandchildren out of incest all in the span of 25 years. To support this massive brood of inbred lunatics, Sawney Beane and the family would come out at night and lay out a careful ambush along the road where they would rob the first people to come through. They’d take their belongings and the dead bodies back to the cave where they would be dismembered and eaten. The final body count supposedly lands in excess of 1,000 dead.
The Beane’s crimes didn’t go unnoticed, either. Locals were aware that people were disappearing in that area but investigations and angry manhunts by classic mobs bearing torches and pitchforks yielded no return. They had an idea of where the Beane’s may live but the problem was that no one ever considered the cave. It seemed inaccessible and didn’t look like the kind of place that people would live. I mean, would you? I suppose if you were butchering the innocent to feed your cursed mutant brood you might.
The Beane’s were eventually discovered when they sprung their trap on a couple riding the highway and it turned out that male half of the couple was a badass fighter who was able to hold them at bay with his sword and pistol until help arrived. The Beane’s fled but King James VI had enough of this bullshit and set a 400 man mob out to find these fiends and that’s when the cave was discovered and the Beane clan was taken to jail. So horrible was this crew that after being held for a while, the king decided ‘fuck it’ and sentenced all 48 of them to death without trial. The men were relieved of their hands, feet and penises and bled out while the women and children watched and when that spectacle was over the rest of them were burned alive.
After all this spectacle it turns out that there’s some speculation by historians that none of this actually happened and that the entire thing may have been a smear campaign by the British against the Scots, who they hated like black licorice. I like to believe that criticism is bullshit because I gotta tell ya, this entire story is nasty stuff. Fifty mutant Scottish hillbillies terrorizing the highways plays like something out of Mad Max or, you know, The Hills Have Eyes.