These hills may indeed have eyes, but Judge Bill Gibron is convinced that the people behind this pathetic sequel to the solid 2006 effort literally have no clue.
Our review of The Hills Have Eyes 2 (Blu-Ray), published November 29th, 2007, is also available.
This time, the lucky ones die fast!
Hoping to figure out what happened to a missing family massacred while on their way to California, the U.S. Army decides to set up high-tech surveillance equipment all around the former nuclear testing site known as Sector 16. They have their suspicions that something evil—or at least, illegal—lives up in the rocky terrain. When the brass loses contact with the crew, they call in a group of National Guard trainees, setting them on the task of figuring out what went wrong. Turns out, the horribly mutated people responsible for the previous reported rampage have killed everyone and moved inside the complex cave system of the main mountain. They have also neatly set up the situation to lure more victims into their domain—preferably female ones. You see, the freaks need more breeding stock. Apparently, their women have all died out. As the pseudo-soldiers are slaughtered one by one, a girl cadet is captured. Our monsters have big procreation plans for her, but the survivors see things differently. They will save their sister in arms, make it out of this underground hell, and, hopefully, live to tell about it.
Let's create a new motion-picture maxim right now, a phrase that easily incorporates some of the many problems facing film fans today. In simple terms, it is painfully clear that movies that don't even bother to try automatically suck. Seems like a simple enough statement. Of course, there will be those who confuse effortlessness with being lazy, so we may have to toss in an all-important critical modifier, something like "and they better be brilliant in their indolence or face an unhealthy amount of comparative consternation." Sure, this does all fall within the subsection of the previous proverb regarding sequels being less successful than their originals, but when faced with a film as gratingly god-awful as The Hills Have Eyes 2, any and all exceptions should instantly apply. This is a movie that wears its disdain for the viewer on every amateurish frame. It feeds off the lengthy legacy of the creative force behind the franchise, and then gets him to whore out his heft for a continued cash grab. That's right, Wes Craven has no one to blame but himself and his own adult seed (co-writer/son Jonathan) for tossing any potential Alexandre Aja invested in the remake right out the window. Instead, the former fear maestro and his kid strive to reinvent the war in Iraq and its buzzword brand of enemy combatants in a ridiculous tale of weekend warriors and the forces of unbridled malevolence waiting to destroy them.
Indeed, if the soldiers in training depicted at the beginning of this nonsensical effort represent the future of our fighting forces, we might as well junk Jesus and make way for Mohammed right now. These retarded ROTC rejects, given supposedly satiric nicknames like "Splitter" and "Crank" (What? "Ignoid" and "Dickweed" were taken?), are announced as bottom-of-the-barrel grunt scrapings, incapable of doing much except adding to the home team's casualty count. In fact, the opening gambit, where the unit is systematically dismantled by hubris and inexperience, is a perfect illustration of our division's inexplicable lameness. And we're supposed to root for these nimrods afterwards? Obviously, Craven and his offspring believe in the pity party version of empathy. Make your movie characters as doomed to failure as possible, and perhaps some manner of maternal/paternal/parenting instinct will kick in and take over. But once we establish this platoon's blatant crappiness, The Hills Have Eyes 2 goes the extra mile and wants to offer them up as action heroes—steely men and women of undeniable drive and determination—at least, for as long as the plot needs them to be. After all, in this sloppy slasher set-up, they are nothing more than SOP victim fodder. Since they are as capable as kittens at defending themselves from flesh-eating fiends, we know their fate implicitly.
And then there are the mutants, the main reason Aja's remake stands out as anything other than a derivative motion-picture mimeograph. In the first film, human leftovers from the government's Cold War nuclear boot scoot began inbreeding, turning into monstrous maniacs who resorted to the fashionable fun of cannibalism to keep alive. Their post-apocalyptic township—an abandoned A-Bomb test city—was like Satan's Sun City Center. Now, Craven has put the creatures back in the caves where he thinks they belong (reason: the survivors from the first film have ratted out the reprobate, driving their sick social order underground), instantly causing comparisons to other spelunking scarefests like The Descent. But thanks to its search-and-destroy, slice-and-dice dimensions, The Hills Have Eyes 2 has very little suspense and even fewer shocks. Anytime characters wander down a darkened mine shaft, the small aperture of light produced by their helmet visors is basically guaranteed to pick up a deformed face or two. The notion that our womanless weirdoes now need captured females to breed has a nicely tacky torture porn quality to it, but the Cravens never explore this possible exploitation angle. Instead, there are just more showdowns, more foul-ups, and more shots of uniformed performers playing the fool. Unless you love mindless gore—heads are smashed in, body parts severed, and features are flash fried and/or gouged out Â- there will be little for you to enjoy. Sadly, even in the realm of arterial spray, The Hills Have Eyes 2 is as slow-witted and sloth-like as its other elements.
Since it tanked at the box office in a rather substantive way this past spring, Fox has decided to do as little a possible to doll up its inevitable DVD release. Of course, we online luminaries don't get a chance to see full-blown final technical specifications, so everything stated herein should be taken with a purposeful pinch of salt. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is a little too dark to deliver logistical meaning (especially in the mostly lightless interior sequences), but overall, the transfer is competent and controlled. The Dolby Digital audio presentation (probably 5.1 when all is said and done) has none of the ambient angst you'd expect from a movie dealing with sinister things that go bump all around a spatial situation. Still, the dialogue is crystal clear, so at least we can laugh at its ludicrousness (typical line: "You know one advantage of being dead? Not having to listen to your bullsh*t!").
As for added content, the disc is labeled "unrated" so the bloodletting is bolstered. Indeed, there's a rather nasty "birth" sequence that starts the film, and one imagines that a couple of the deaths have been returned to their former "juiciness." Elsewhere, one can view deleted scenes (unnecessary), an alternate ending (only slightly different), a gag reel (to be taken literally), an overview of the special effects, a glimpse at the Hills Have Eyes prequel graphic novel (oh goody!), a "making of" documentary (snore), and a segment of Fox Movie Channel's Life After Film School series featuring—ta da!—Wes Craven. It's a lot of bombast and ballyhoo for a movie that's so artistically and cinematically bankrupt. Still, if you want to understand how important Mr. Last House on the Left thought this project was, you'll just love his description of the scriptwriting process—basically, he and his son got together and banged out this dung heap in 10 days. It's hard to know whether one should be impressed or depressed.
When the man responsible for all this substandard splatter can't be bothered to spend more than a fortnight making up the material, why should we even trouble ourselves responding to it. Such entertainment rules of thumb are necessary to guide us away from the kind of callous creepshows that The Hills Have Eyes 2 represents. Otherwise, filmmakers will continue their uninspired efforts, much to the audience's cinematic chagrin. Guilty.
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