Wes Craven’s blood-and-bone frightener about an all-American family at the mercy of cannibal mutants is a satisfying piece of pulp.
Reputedly based on genuine 17th-century Scottish cave-dwellers, these savages terrorize a strip of Californian desert in which the Carters are stranded by a snapped axle. Hollywood Movie-dog tradition is put to use in the forms of Beauty and the Beast, Carters’ protective pets, which play their part in final outwitting of the marauders.
But there’s plenty of death before then, survivors of the symbolic struggle being the teenagers on both sides, one dog and a baby, on whose future (in the world or in the pot) much of the rival hysterias have centered.
Gratifying aspects are Craven’s businesslike plotting and pacy cutting, and a script which takes more trouble over the stock characters than it needs. There are plenty of laughs, in the dialog and in the story’s disarming twists.