Wes Craven's original is regarded as a classic among the horror community, and rightfully so. It's a very nasty little exploitation movie. This was way before my time, but I imagine watching this back in the 70's would have been a more rewarding experience for me. I do thoroughly enjoy it though. I love most Craven flicks.
I really dig how gritty and bleak this is. This movie has a black little heart and it only wants to get nasty. The desert setting is an ideal horror setting; the victims are trapped with nowhere to go and are under constant danger. This doesn't need a night time climate to let the real horror unravel.
As much as I enjoy this movie, it's not one I regard as a classic but I can see why others do. Still, damn impressive, eh?
The Hills Have Eyes 2 (1985)
You won't read a lot of good reviews for this on the internet. Even Craven himself has disowned it. My question is ''WHY?'' This sequel is a lot of fun, it's trashy, cheap and sometimes cheesy. This is why horror is so good: I love it when cheesy sequels follow classics. It's part of the charm of horror.
This sequel has some decent kills, some nice atmosphere and some truly ridiculous moments. I consider these strong points. Sure, this had the potential to be a good, solid sequel but Craven really didn't have his heart in it and instead gave us an unintentionally fun piece of crap with a dog that has flashbacks. That's a cinematic breakthrough that should be praised.
I'm in the minority, but I like it. Recommended with beer.
Mind Ripper (1995)
AKA ''The Outpost'' AKA ''The Hills Have Eyes 3''
This doesn't have anything to do with the first two movies, but it was marketed as a sequel and contains. Craven (who produced this) pulled the plug on naming it in the ''Hills'' series to rename it The Outpost but it's sort of a sequel so we'll count it this time.
The plot: a science experiment goes wrong and a mutant is created, going on a rampage and only Lance Henriksen can stop him.
This isn't a masterpiece, but it's a lot of fun. I really recommend it if you want some good cheesy fun. However, if the second one angers you due to love for the first then avoid. If you like fun cheese then you'll have a hoot with this.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
This was one of a few remakes in the 2000's that surpassed the original for me (others include Dawn of the Dead, TCM & The Ring). When it comes to remakes, I can take a little comfort if Aja is attached because so far he's made them better than their respective originals in my opinion (also note Piranha & Mirrors). Sorry for the blasphemy but it's just my taste. Maybe it's my ungrateful generation with our MTV and fetish porn?
Aja doesn't stray far from the original storyline at all but what he does do is provide better characters who are likable, a steady build up filled with tension, nastier looking mutants, stunning cinematography and what us horror fans crave, graphic violence. I think this remake hit all the right spots to become a modern horror classic and not just an acceptable remake. I love it.
The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)
Once again, I'm probably in the minority of those who actually enjoyed this movie, even if it wasn't for the same reasons I enjoyed the original sequel. This is watchable but not spectacular. However, even though it lacks the tension and suspense of Aja's remake, it does deliver in terms of kills, gore and body count.
Martin Weisz delivered a solid sequel with some decent actors, gore and some nice ideas, but in the end it wasn't as good as it could have been. Definitely worth a watch from time to time, but don't go in with high expectations. As I said, I'm in the minority who enjoyed it.
So there it is, I like them all but I'm not exactly Roger Ebert. I found entertainment in the lot of them and that's what matters to me. If you know what you're getting from each of them then you might enjoy them as well.