While traveling in a trailer through the desert to California, the retired detective Big Bob Carter (Russ Grieve) stops in an isolated gas station with his family for fueling and rest. Bob is traveling with his wife Ethel (Virgina Vincent), his son Bobby (Robert Houston), his daughters Brenda (Susan Lanier) and Lynn (Dee Wallace) and his son-in-law and Lynn's husband Doug (Martin Speer) and their daughter baby Katy. When they leave the gas station, the owner advises Bob to stay in the main road. However, the stubborn driver takes a shortcut through a nuclear testing site and wrecks his station wagon. With the family stranded in the middle of nowhere, Bob and Doug walk on the road trying to find some help. Bob is captured by an insane and sadistic member of a deranged evil family that lives nearby the spot (Michael Berryman, Lance Gordon, Janus Bluthe, Cordy Clarke, Peter Locke). Doug returns to the trailer, and along the night the Carter family is attacked by a group of psychotic cannibal criminals. Absolutely trapped by the murderers, they have to fight to survive.
- Susan Lanier as Brenda Carter
- Dee Wallace as Lynne Wood
- John Steadman as Fred
- Robert Houston as Bobby Carter
- Martin Speer as Doug Wood
- Russ Grieve as Big Bob Carter
- James Whitworth as Papa Jupiter
- Virginia Vincent as Ethel Carter
- Michael Berryman as Pluto
- Lance Gordon as Mars
- Janus Blythe as Ruby
- Cordy Clark as Mama
- Peter Locke as Mercury (credited as Arthur King)
- Brenda Marinoff as Baby Katy Wood
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 65% based on 23 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 6.1/10. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on 4 critics, indicating "Generally favorable reviews"
Craven directed a sequel to the film, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, which was released in 1985. A remake of The Hills Have Eyes was released in 2006 directed by Alexandra Aja, which Craven produced. In 2007, Craven and his son Jonathan wrote the sequel to the remake, The Hills Have Eyes 2.