It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
It always begins with the Wrong Gas Station. In real life, as I pointed out in my review of a previous Wrong Gas Station movie, most gas stations are clean, well-lighted places, where you can buy not only gasoline but groceries, clothes, electronic devices, Jeff Foxworthy CDs and a full line of Harley merchandise. In horror movies, however, the only gas station in the world is located on a desolate road in a godforsaken backwater. It is staffed by a degenerate who shuffles out in his coveralls and runs through a disgusting repertory of scratchings, spittings, chewings, twitchings and leerings, while thoughtfully shifting mucus up and down his throat.
The clean-cut heroes of the movie, be they a family on vacation, newlyweds, college students or backpackers, all have one thing in common. They believe everything this man tells them, especially when he suggests they turn left on the unpaved road for a shortcut. Does it ever occur to them that in this desolate wasteland with only one main road, it must be the road to stay on if they ever again want to use their cell phones?
No. It does not. They take the fatal detour, and find themselves the prey of demented mutant incestuous cannibalistic gnashing slobberers, who carry pickaxes the way other people carry umbrellas. They occupy junkyards, towns made entirely of wax, nuclear waste zones and Motel Hell ("It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters"). That is the destiny that befalls a vacationing family in "The Hills Have Eyes," which is a very loose remake of Wes Craven's 1977 movie of the same name.
The Carter family is on vacation. Dad (Ted Levine) is a retired detective who plans to become a security guard. Mom is sane, lovable Kathleen Quinlan. A daughter and son in law (Vinessa Shaw and Aaron Stanford) have a newborn babe. There are also two other Carter children (Dan Byrd and Emilie de Ravin), and two dogs, named Beauty and Beast. They have hitched up an Airstream and are on a jolly family vacation through the test zones where 331 atmospheric nuclear tests took place in the 1950s and 1960s.