5 Hysterical On (and Off) the Set Moments from The Hills Have Eyes (’77)

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When you think about Wes Craven’s cult classic, The Hills Have Eyes, there are words that automatically come to mind — unrelenting, gritty, dark, savage… but what about humorous? Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. How on Earth could a film that was as deviant as The Hills Have Eyes was be humorous? Let me explain.

I found myself watching a featurette called “Looking Back at The Hills Have Eyes“. It’s basically a recollection of how the idea for Hills came about, what filming Hills was like, and many other things concerning the film itself. And boy, did these guys have some funny stories to tell!

  1. When looking for the set location to be used for Hills, Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke both headed out to an area in the desert, which was decided on by merely pointing to a random area located on a topographical map, so that they could find the perfect spot that would later send chills down our spines many months later when the film hit theaters. The two later found themselves in a place called Apple Valley. It was excruciatingly hot that day, with temperatures nearing 114 degrees. Keeping cool with 6-packs of Pepsi, it was finally decided that this was the site they would use. Wasting no time to get the hell out of the heat, Peter and Wes headed back to their car which was blessed with the gift of air conditioning. As they began to head back to civilization… uh-oh. The car wouldn’t start. They tried again. Still wouldn’t start. Could it be that the two would fall victim to their own plot? Was this some sort of sick karma? As they tried one more time… bingo! The car finally started. I guess the third time really is the charm!
  2. One of the most memorable scenes (if not the most memorable) from The Hills Have Eyes is, without a doubt, the trailer raiding scene, where the young Brenda Carter (played by Suze Lanier-Bramlett) is defiled by the feral savage Pluto (played by Michael Berryman). It’s a hard scene to watch, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. The rape scene was actually the first scene filmed for Hills, and of course that meant things would feel very tense between cast and crew. Suze and Michael thought it would be a good idea to try and break the ice, which is exactly what they did. As action was called and the curtain was flung back, everyone was stunned to see the two performing a passionate make-out scene, instead of the planned rape scene. This brought out wild laughter from both the cast and crew, and just as Suze and Michael had planned, broke the ice for the real deal.
  3. You would think that working on such an indecent film as The Hills Have Eyes would bring out the darker side of people. Throughout the film, it is obvious that Papa Jupiter and his clan (aside from Ruby, of course) would like nothing more than to kill and devour (“We’ve got us a young Thanksgiving turkey!”) little baby Katy. Believe it or not, there was not a single member of the cast or crew that wanted that precious little baby (played by Brenda Marinoff) to be killed. In fact, many made it quite clear that if the baby was killed, they would want nothing more to do with the film and would leave the set entirely. Hey, I don’t blame ’em. That baby was pretty cute.
  4. I think that most people are under the impression that the rattlesnakes that were used during the end of the film were harmless. That’s what I thought, anyway. Before the snakes were released onto the set, they were placed inside a cooler to set for a few hours. Doing this helped slow the snakes down, thus preventing them from becoming a serious threat to the cast and crew. As the last of the cast members began to prepare for their final scene, they noticed that the others were jumping up out of their seats and running away from the set. It turned out that the snakes that were supposed to still be in the cooler were let out a bit too early… and the heat of the desert helped get them going again. Keep in mind that these snakes still had venom in them. Yikes! Thankfully, the snakes were retrieved safely, and nobody was hurt.
  5. The Hills Have Eyes finally hit theaters on July 22, 1977. During a screening of the film, a woman with her 14 year old son stood up during the film and declared, “This film is sick and depraved!” A voice suddenly spoke from behind her. “You’re damn right, lady. This film is sick, and it’s depraved.” She then turned around to find herself face to face with none other that Pluto himself, Michael Berryman! Oh, what I would give to have seen that happen.

I think my favorite thing about documentaries is being able to hear all about the funny stories the cast and crew have to tell from their experiences on and off set. I highly recommend checking out “Looking Back at The Hills Have Eyes“. It’s definitely worth the watch, especially if you’re a die-hard Hills fan such as myself! So tell me, what’s your favorite moment from The Hills Have Eyes? Leave a comment below!