In director Wes Craven’s 1977 horror masterpiece The Hills Have Eyes, a family run into trouble when their campervan breaks down in the middle of the desert, leaving them at the mercy of a clan of cannibals lurking in the surrounding hills.
To celebrate the release of the definitive edition of this defining classics of American horror, on Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD from Arrow Video (featuring a brand new 4K restoration of the film and a cave-full of extras), here are nine horror films featuring murderous families – from seemingly sedate suburban couples driven to murder, to supposedly respectable hotel proprietors with a very grim secret – whose paths you really don’t want to cross!
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)
Suffice to say, if you inadvertently ended up bedding down for the night in the home of the parents whose daughter you had just savagely killed, you can expect a rude awakening. When the mum and dad discover the ghastly deeds of their unexpected guests, in THE HILLS HAVE EYES’ director Wes Craven’s startling and controversial debut feature, dad heads to the tool shed and mum goes towards the kitchen drawer.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
Curiosity killed the cat – or in this case, a campervan full of friends who go nosing around where they shouldn’t in Tobe Hooper’s groundbreaking horror classic. Deep in the heart of Texas they run afoul of the Sawyer family – including a former slaughterhouse worker, a mummified mother and the infamous skin-masked Leatherface, a man-child who is quite adept at slinging his victims on a meat hook before they are turned into barbecued goods.
MOTEL HELL (1980)
The Smith’s – Vincent and his sister Ida – seem like a friendly, folksy couple. They have a farm with an adjoining hotel, and they’re famous for their delicious smoked meats. Little do their customers know that it ‘takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters’ – namely victims of the road traps the Smiths have set to keep trade thriving. But the secret ingredients to their fine fare, well, they keep that in the family!
The poor old Bates family – they aren’t attracting too many customers to their motel since the highway was moved. And when they do get a visitor, well, Mrs Bates, she doesn’t really approve of young, unmarried women taking a room… and she certainly doesn’t like the idea of Norman having supper with such a person. And of course, it’s left to Norman to clear up the mess. Some suggest his mother would be better off in an institution – but Norman, the dutiful son, won’t hear anything of the sort. Families should stick together, through thick and thin!
THE SHINING (1980)
Sometimes, the family you need to watch out for are your own. On the face of it, what could be better for the Torrances than a winter spent with the run of a huge off-season hotel – and all Jack, the father, has to do, is some minor janitorial work, giving him plenty of time to concentrate on his writing. What they hadn’t bargained on was the creeping isolation, the ghostly atmosphere of the hotel, and one of them becoming seriously unhinged during those cold winter months.
DEADLY BLESSING (1981)
Ernest Borgnine stars as the fearsome head of a strict Hittite sect, who has got it in for the widow of an apostate. The sect, you see, is just one big (sort of) happy family, and woe and betide anyone who attempts to break from their ranks. It might result in being called an ‘incubus’ and being terrorised late at night by Gluntz, played by The Hills Have Eyes poster boy Michael Berryman.
The Cobb’s – Ezra and his mother Amanda, a religious fanatic – run a farm in the Midwest, in this ghoulish chiller loosely based (like Psycho and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, on the crimes of Ed Gein). When Amanda dies, Ezra goes all to pieces… he can’t stand to be apart from his beloved mum, so digs up her corpse and then goes on a killing rampage, and starts to fill his house with dead companions. It’s what mamma would have wanted.
As any family will tell you, moving home can be a real headache. Clive Barker’s magnificently nasty film debut features the Cotton family – Larry and Julia and their daughter Kirsty – who move into a new home, unaware that Larry’s brother Frank has suffered a grisly fate in the attic at the hands of a strange puzzle box. When Kirsty discovers said box, yes, you guessed it, all hell breaks loose – and the head of the family starts to, quite literally, come apart at the seams. You know what they say, home is where the heart rips into pieces.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)
What happens when an all-American family on their way to California run up against a family of cannibals living in the desert hills who prey on unsuspecting travellers. Well, not exactly what you might expect – the stranded family, initially bewildered at their situation, soon become resourceful and fight back against the flesh-munching marauders – with spectacular results. Never underestimate the strength of kin!