The late, great Wes Craven was responsible for some of the greatest horror movies over the span of over thirty years with his fertile imagination giving us some of cinema’s most notable maniacs that ever took a life, however, just because someone gives you the intelligent slashings of Scream, the fantastical fear of A Nightmare On Elm Street and the matter of fact brutality of The Last House On The Left, it doesn’t mean he can’t have the odd off day…. or six, or seven…
Look, part of the charm of being a Wes Craven fan is to accept that fairly often, that overactive creative streak would turn out an impressively ripe stinker that made his filmography something of a minefield to negotiate when trying to prove his obvious genius. Never is this most evident when comparing the gaping void of quality that exists between 70’s brutality classic, The Hills Have Eyes and it’s much lamented, 80’s sequel; a movie so inept you’ll not only be stunned that it got released the same year as the first Elm Street, but that it ever got released at all…
Eight years after a clan of marauding cannibals killed, Kate and raped a large cross section of his family, survivor Bobby Carter is unsurprisingly still traumatised as fuck as he tries to process what happened to him years earlier to his therapist in the form of endless flashbacks. It seems that Bobby now owns a biker team with reformed, ex-cannibal mutant Ruby (now calling herself Rachel) and they have developed a new kind of super fuel that’ll hopefully help the win a race that’s being held in the exact same desert where their respective family went to war. As extraordinarily unlikely as virtually every single thing I’ve just written is, Bobby proves to be the lone example of sanity in this entire movie by having a massive panic attack the day his team is due to hop into a bus and happy drive off into the sandy wasteland where his family was decimated and so Rachel and a bike team of goofy morons head off under the burning sun. However, when they realise they’re going to miss the beginning race by an hour thanks to that not a single one of these idiots have realised that today is daylight savings time, they decide to take a short cut through the dessert that Rachel realises will take them worryingly close to her clan’s old stomping ground.
Of course, she desides to say sweet fuck all and after the bus stalls due to a leaky fuel line (I’ll say it again, these guys Are. Fucking. Idiots), the gang find themselves stranded at an old, abandoned mining ranch where they all wander off for various dumb reasons.
The bad news is somehow, Pluto, one of the cannibals, has managed to survive his previous film mauling and has teamed up with his bezerker, lumpy-headed uncle, the Reaper to get up to their old tricks by slaughtering everyone they can. The good news is that Rachel now is the owner of Beast, the Carter’s fearsome dog, who thankfully evens the odds between the cycle-revving dumbasses and the duo of maniacal flesh crunchers – but it’s still gonna be a fight for survival; just a really crappy one.
As even his most ardent acolytes might agree, it’s not just that The Hills Have Eyes Part II is so bad you’ll struggle to believe Craven has also made some of the best movies the genre has to offer, it’s that it’s so bad you’ll struggle to believe Craven ever made a movie before, period. To be fair, it’s not all his fault as the movie was actually shot in 1983 where the production ran out of money two-thirds of the way through the shoot and was abandoned, only for Craven to be persuaded to piece something together from what remained when Elm Street hit big at the box office. To make up the lack of footage, Craven was forced to employ an alarmingly excessive use of flashbacks that veers on being genuiningly insulting, Jesus fucking Christ, even Beast the dog gets a goddamn flashback at one point, complete with those wavy lines and everything. However, while releasing a blatently unfinished film onto the public understandably means that it’s going to come with some serious storytelling problems, this desperate attempt to recoup funds leaves us a film that’s borderline unwatchable on almost every level with lazy script writing and plot holes deeper than a corpse-filled mine shaft.
In fact, The Hills Have Eyes Part II is so impressively disastrous, I’m not actually sure where to start. Maybe I should choose Harry Manfredini’s score that’s essentially repurposed wholesale from Friday The 13th, or that the first third of the movie is crammed full of those lazy, fake out scares that any child of the 80’s learned to despise and serves to make all your characters feel like world class pieces of shit and utterly kills any empathy you may have for them – I mean what kind of an asshole wears a rubber mask to scare his blind girlfriend?
Even worse than these goofy mouth breather who make up our cast is the stupendously illogical choices the script forces them to make: standing the characters thanks to an unholy combination of super fuel, motorbike racing, a leaky bus and the inability of anyone involved to tell the fucking time, is bad enough, but other gargantuan leaps of common sense will make you openly wonder why Bobby eould ever form a relationship with Ruby let alone start up a business with her when her family ate, raped and murdered most of his. Elsewhere, shockingly bland villain, the Reaper, is explained away as Papa Jupiter’s older brother despite the first movie going out of it’s way to explain why this couldn’t possibly be possible (and even if it was, where the fuck has he been all this time, eating people on a cruise?) and any impact the sight of Michael Berryman’s Pluto once had disperses the second he pulls on a football helmet and gets chased around the desert on a dirt bike.
Even the kills are weak (unforgivable in a Hills Have Eyes movie), as they all carry the weight of a nativity play performed by 6 year olds, with one guy is literally crushed to death by a falling rock seconds after avoiding a booby trap and triumphantly yelling “Missed me, nah-nah nah-nah nah-nah!”.
Lacking not a single ounce of the vicious wit, and brutal imagination that the original movie wielded as deftly as a cannibal’s blade and emerging as quite possibly as Wes Craven’s lowest point (impressive considering he also made the awkwardly ropey Swamp Thing and the tonally bizarre Deadly Friend), at one point, the blind heroine staggers around at the bottom of if a mine shaft only to find the mutilated bodies of her friends and scream “WHY?” in abject horror.
So will you, but for very different reasons.