Retired police officer Bob Carter (Russ Grieve) and his suburban middle-class family are on a camping road trip to California when they ignore the warnings of a crazy old man they encounter at a gas station who warns them to stay on the main road and they take a detour through a US Air Force bomb-testing range because Big Bob wants to explore a mine.
They become trapped in the middle of nowhere when they break an axle on their car, stranding them in the Yucca desert. Unfortunately, the area is not uninhabited…
As night falls, a clan of primitive barbaric mountain-dwelling cannibals – ruled with an iron fist by a mutated monster-patriarch named Jupiter (James Whitworth) – close in on the Carter family for the attack.
Big Bob is crucified and eventually immolated by his counterpart Papa Jupiter, while two of Jupiter’s sons raid the Carter’s Airstream trailer and rape younger daughter Brenda (Susan Lanier), murdering her sister and mother.
Stripped of all pretensions, desperate for survival, the remaining members of the Carter clan finally find within themselves the courage, craftiness, and rage to kill off their enemies.
Their behaviour is more violent and psychotic than the cannibals.
The film closes with a powerful red-filtered freeze-frame of son-in-law Doug (Martin Speer) in full fury, set to stab Jupiter’s son Mars (Lance Gordon) in the chest – though Mars is surely already dead.
The violence is shocking and strangely realistic – This is raw, intense horror at its best.
Director Wes Craven made a poorly regarded sequel, The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985), and an over-the-top 2006 remake earned a lame-duck 2007 sequel of its own.
Big Bob Carter