1½ stars (out of four)
The reasons the Motion Picture Association of America can't be trusted keep piling up like festering, bullet-ridden corpses, which happen to be among the MPAA's favorite things. The ratings board gets all twisted up about sex and skin, yet it cannot give you or your kids enough ax blades to the cranium.
This week's evidence: the remake of the old Wes Craven horror item, "The Hills Have Eyes," which should not be rated R. It should be rated NC-17, or ITTS-OW, which stands for Is This Thing Sadistic, Or What?
The original "Eyes" came out in 1977, when every B-movie actor sported a porn-star m ustache and every B-actress had the Farrah flip. Shooting on a $325,000 micro-budget, the future maestro of "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" worked an effective brand of rough magic. His movie, about a vacationing Cleveland family encountering hungry cannibals in the desert, was pretty harsh for its day: Craven had to make trims to avoid an X rating. Today the '77 version might sneak by with a PG-13.
Alexandre Aja, the director and co-writer of the "Eyes" remake, had his own run-in with the MPAA. The maker of the French slasher film "High Tension" claims the ratings board demanded trims in the violence department in order for "Eyes" to secure an R. This makes it sound like the MPAA actually did its job. It didn't. R isn't enough for this gristle.
The remake, slickly assembled but a thoroughgoing drag, is infinitely bloodier than the original. Aja also has taken an implicit rape from the first film and turned it into a more explicit double rape. Most of the plot points remain the same. What's new concerns the back-story nonsense, blaming the hill clan's mutant flesh-eating tendencies on atomic tests conducted in the New Mexico desert, mentioned only fleetingly in the original. The opening credit sequence flashes images of deformed fetuses. The images are offensive--clinical in the worst way, like a lot of the picture.
Aja and co-writer Gregory Levasseur ape the recent "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake in its charnel-house grotesquerie. Like the "Chainsaw" rehash, "Eyes" borrows its title and narrative from a memorably grungy '70s artifact and then proceeds to hammer each new atrocity into your skull with a quarter of the skill and 10 times the blatancy of the original. The cast, better than it should be, features Robert Joy as the over-acting-est mutant and, as the unfortunate parents, Ted Levine and Kathleen Quinlan. To think the year Craven's original came out, Quinlan starred in "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden"! And now this. A career in the movies promises a rose garden to no one, ever.
'The Hills Have Eyes'
Directed by Alexandre Aja; screenplay by Aja and Gregory Levasseur, based on Wes Craven's 1977 screenplay; cinematography by Maxime Alexandre; production design by Joseph Nemec III; music by Tomandandy; edited by Baxter ; produced by Craven, Marianne Maddalena and Peter Locke. A Fox Searchlight Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:45. MPAA rating: R (for strong gruesome violence and terror throughout, and for language).
Big Bob Carter - Ted Levine
Ethel Carter - Kathleen Quinlan
Lynn - Vinessa Shaw
Brenda - Emilie De Ravin
Doug - Aaron Stanford
Lizard - Robert Joy
Papa Jupiter - Billy DragoCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times