Best known for his work on A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream series, Wes Craven's beginnings as a filmmaker were tied to exploitation cinema rather than traditional horror. This is most notable in his debut, the controversial film The Last House on the Left, backed by the brilliant marketing campaign tagline "To avoid fainting, keep repeating, it's only a movie."
With his debut, Craven established his keen ability to play on current paranoia in the culture, and his next effort, The Hills Have Eyes, carried on his exploitation background by feeding on the fears of the dismantling of the nuclear family and mashing it with elements of slasher/horror.
The Hills Have Eyes pits a large family on vacation against a group of inbred cannibals that roam the desert and prey on those passing through for food and items to steal and trade. Backed by an unsettling gristly realism that made the director infamous on his debut, we look at Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes scariest moments, ranked up to our favorite.
10 Man vs. Dog
While this scene is not so scary as it is a beautiful piece of revenge, there is still a sliver of terror in hoping the dog sustains no damage as he tears apart Michael Berryman's character, Pluto. Throughout the production, the film crew makes ample use of the four-legged actors as a means to create tension. This scene is particularly cathartic, as Beauty gets to avenge her dog brother Beast who was killed by Pluto.
For those bothered by gore, The Hills Have Eyes is surprisingly slim on the kroovy, choosing to illicit fear from the audience by creating a sense of realism over sensationalism. However, Berryman's mangled ankle is probably the most gnarly the film gets — beyond the poor fate that falls on poor ol' Big Bob Carter — adding an extra layer of horror for those that are squeamish.
9 The Doctor Told You to Take Care of Your Heart
Big Bob Carter, played by Russ Grieve, has a hard go of things throughout the film, and one of the first things we learn about the character is that his heart is the worse for wear. Despite being a rather unlikable character, it is hard not to feel for the grumpy patriarch who genuinely wants to do well for his family, even if he has an odd way of showing it.
The veteran police officer's lousy heart catches up to him early in a scene where he collapses while trying to chase down the man he knows will threaten his family. The idle taunting at the poor man's condition as he falls to the ground is a chilling indication of what will come.
8 I Thought I Would Jump in Here to Say Hello
The Hills Have Eyes does not rely on jump scares to frighten its audience, instead striking terror by trying to create a realistic piece of horror in a fight for survival in the desert. However, one scene acts as the first attack with elements of a jump scare, quite literary, as one of the actors jumps through a window to take out an unsuspecting victim.
This scene is not as high on our list as it is not as startling as it is humorous when compared to modern standards of utilizing the jump scare to build tension/shock the audience. Still, it is a nice little sting early into the film that sets the pace for the action-heavy sequences that follow.
7 Snake Bite Attack
As the Carter family and Jupiter's crew of inbred cannibals face off, Doug runs into Mars after trying to find the camp and retrieve his infant. What ensues is an off-and-on fight as the two run through the desert. This is also where Doug finds an unlikely ally in Ruby, a young girl looking to escape her life with the desert-dwelling undesirables.
The fight in the desert is pretty intense, with the two chasing and attempting to stab or push one another off the hills, but when they start throwing blows on the ground, Ruby captures a rattlesnake to help Doug. With a single forced snake bite to the neck, the fight turns, and Doug kills Mars in a glorious and bloody revenge.
6 A Ghastly Distraction
Back to poor old Bob, thinking that he had already fallen from a weak heart, we learn that he is still alive via seeing Jupiter crucifying the poor guy and shoving a rock down his throat. Why would they do that? Well, so that he could not scream, and they could use him as a distraction to draw the rest of the family away from the shelter of their RV.
Lit on fire, only to be put out to offer a few smoke-filled gurgles, Big Bob Carter's final moments are sad and horrifying. This scene also introduces the viewers to the extremes and mind games that Jupiter and his group would go to get their prey, making it a frightening prospect of what will happen to the remaining Carter family.
5 Where Did the Dog Go?
If you are squeamish about dogs and the possibility of harm coming to them or seeing them in an aggressive state, The Hills Have Eyes is a movie you will want to avoid. This is particularly true of the scene that reveals the death of one of the family pets, Beast, who, after running off, Bobby chases after him only to follow the yelps of a dog in pain.
This sound and the mere idea are enough to shock most dog lovers, and the resultant imagery of poor Beast dead is equally shocking and horrifying. Bobby, who finds the dog, also carries the scars and anger of seeing his beloved pet die, which pushes his quest for revenge earlier than the rest of the family. This is a subtle yet effective way to start breaking down the family dynamic.
4 They Took the Baby
After the attack on the RV (more on that later), Bobby and Doug try to make sense of what happened and check on everyone. However, the real stomach-turning moment is when Doug realizes they took the baby. This, rightfully so, sends Doug into a panic, and he becomes desperate, heading into the desert to retrieve his child.
This scene is made all the more chilling when we see Jupiter and his crew excited about getting a 'turkey' for them to eat. As a viewer, the loathing of the ghastly cannibals is at its highest, while the fear for the young infant is just as intense.
3 Threatening a Corpse
Just when the viewer thought they had already seen the last of Big Bob, he makes one more appearance as a corpse. Learning that the Jupiter family kept the charred remains of Bob is not as disturbing as the way Jupiter speaks to the long-deceased dad. After Jupiter suffers the first loss of one of his own, he stands over the remains of Bob, looking into his exposed eyes surrounded by burnt skin, and tells him all the horrors he plans to commit upon his family.
The callousness and lack of respect around death make this one of the most unnerving scenes in The Hills Have Eyes. It is a peculiar disregard for decency and a brief glimpse into the insanity that bred the violent desert-dwelling murderous tribe.
2 The Final Showdown
With the rest of Jupiter's crew killed off, it comes down to Brenda and Bobby to finish the head honcho himself in the film's final moments. What entails is a battle of wits as the two try to trap and blow up the brutish Jupiter.
As horror has taught us, the bad guy does not always go down so quickly, and after thinking they have blasted away Jupiter by blowing up their RV, the two have to fight the monstrous man. The scream of Brenda (Susan Lanier) as she drives an axe into the back of Jupiter over and over again is pure horror perfection and an ideal end to the long confrontation between the Carters and the desert cannibals.
1 Fight to the Death in the Trailer
There is not a single scene in the film that matches the chaos and horror of the raid of the RV by Pluto and Mars as the two fight off against the women of the Carter family, trading blows and ultimately shooting two of them before grabbing the baby and bolting.
The realism of this encounter mainly drives the intrigue/horror of this scene as Craven captures the intensity of a fight within an enclosed space with an uncomfortable realism. This event also catalyzes everything afterward as Bobby, Brenda, and Doug prepare to fight for their lives, an intense moment of violence that gloriously sets the tone for everything that follows.