I suppose this is the price we pay for the First Amendment: Films featuring sadistic cannibal mutants graphically slaughtering a family of innocent vacationers. In a free society, 20th Century Fox is entitled to produce detestable gore-porn, film writers are allowed to warn people away, and moviegoers are at liberty to shun or support it. The preview audience loathed it and walked out in record numbers, so there is hope for us yet.
Based on Wes Craven's brutal 1977 shocker, this is effective, in the way thumbscrews are. The acting is several notches above the usual level for such fare, the direction is fluid and assured, and except for the overuse of VERY LOUD MUSICAL STINGS to jolt us, the film earns its screams.
But craftsmanship alone is not enough. The plot functions on the lowest level of audience comprehension: a family under siege in the desert fights back. Dad (Ted Levine) shoots. Mom (Kathleen Quinlan) prays. Their daughters -- sexy Brenda (Emilie De Ravin) and new mother Lynn (Vinessa Shaw) -- cower. Kid brother Bobby (Dan Byrd) freaks out. Lynn's gutless pacifist husband, Doug (Aaron Stanford), gapes in shock until he becomes a killer himself.
The film is made with a soulless sort of cleverness. Using considerable creative intelligence and millions of dollars with no purpose other than profit by inspiring bloodlust is monstrous. The real ghouls are living in the Hollywood hills.
Rated R; gruesome violence and terror and profanity.