Monday, March 6, 2017

The Hills Have Eyes (2006) - Terrorism, Masculinity and Totalitarianism

There is an obviousness in which The Hills Have Eyes explores masculinity. Bob, the retired detective, plays the role of father, protector, and bully. Taking shots at Doug’s perceived and actual inferiority. Doug on the other hand recoils and sidebars his retorts to his wife. Accepting, she pleads with Doug to take the high ground. Swallow his pride, keep his mouth shut and avoid confrontation.

The Hills Have Eyes juxtaposes the nuclear family against the radiated family. The Incestuous radioactive mutants living on the outskirts, trapping and scavenging the weary traveler. The mutants present a primal vision of masculinity. Hypersexualized murders commanding and controlling. acting on their power outside the eyes of society. Unbridled and unflinching a club to the head settles power disputes where words fail to capture shifting superiorities.

Bob views Doug as a coward. As a liberal democrat, Doug is more than just uncomfortable with guns. Guns represent for him a tool to eradicate the will of others. A political eraser. Bob, on the other hand, is a former detective and knows that eradicating other humans is not only a right but often a matter of survival.

Based on the portrayal of Doug’s character in the first half of the film we are lead to believe that his personality was not built out of the need to survive. A cellphone salesman, who likely has never done anything great with his life. Lacking existential drive would fit well in one of Jigsaw’s traps.

Unlike Doug, Bob is battle worn and bears the scars of his experience. A typical conservative machismo commanding and enforcing his need to be perceived as superior to others.

Doug’s communication strategy with Bob combats this superiority. A superiority not only rejected by Doug but viewed as less than his neoliberal ideology. Doug verbally combats bob, not with insults but with appeals to logic.

From the hills, the family is being watched. The mutant terrorists scheme and look for weaknesses. Disabling the family’s vehicle forced the adult males to go in search of help. Leaving the woman and children to wait for rescue. Knowing that the men present a greater threat they set traps.

At the right moment, the mutants strike. Setting ablaze the patriarchy. And splitting the group further as family member run to save Bob. In the trailer, they pillage their spoils. Women and babies. The alpha male of the two fends of a bulkier of the two to seize the woman for himself.

Using a mixture of grunts, body language and short phrases the alpha asserts his authority over his spoils. Cowering, the lessor complies and moves towards the baby.

The mutants, like the family both, have males that have needs for social superiority. The difference between the two sets of males is that the men in the family not only seek superiority, they seek it in such a way where their dominance over lesser men is validated by witnesses. The mutants, on the other hand, seek to maintain dominion over the lessor's behavior. The difference is between ideological power and behavioral power.

The mutants have a practical need to rape and pillage. The need is based on survival. The mutants must gather resources and functional wombs in order provide the right materials for the continuance of the group. The guerrilla strategies used to shock and conquer are severely weakened by the democratic process. The success of the mission and survival of the community relies on sharp concerted efforts in high-risk environments. Confusion over lines of authority and action but the entire community at risk.

The family comes from a world where the actions one takes to survive have much lower stakes. White collar workers sell merchandise, and even if they are fired, society provides ways to support them through social services and social security. There is very low risk of dismemberment in going to the store to pick up milk. In such a universe, the democratic process thrives the perceived social and bodily safety of the voting civilian.

What the viewer and the family are blind to is the mutants exist contemporaries with the family’s reality. Even in worlds where there is a low risk of real death, a couple blocks over in the same city civilians fight to the death over resources. Often siphoning the livelihood from their more successful neighbors.
The masculinities that develop in this communities are born out of the needs of these communities and help shape the ongoing realities for those in the community. Men become the kind of men that they need to be to survive in the environment that shape them. And at the same time, these men shape the communities and their relationships with the experience from their lived experience.

In The Hills Have Eyes these two methods of survival clash. Both seeking to gain superiority over the other. A superiority fought for using the methods of the Mutants. The family quick to adapt to the desert and methods of aggression, find ways to become mutant. One of the key shifts is the move from democratic decision making to totalitarian assertions. There is a great moment, after Doug’s transformation where he is communicating his orders to his brother in law, and the brother in law asks a question. Doug forces his need and compels him to make way for his command.

This force is the human possibility. The hidden dictator that bides his time beneath the surface waiting for the right moment to transform the will. Become what needs to be done. Master and shape reality. Bend the wills of others to the needs of command. 

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