When compared to that other long running franchise of inbred mutants indulging in their vulgar pastimes with stranded holiday makers, The Hills Have Eyes runs a distinct second to the seemingly never ending Wrong Turn series when it comes to quantity. However, as good as Rob Schmidt’s forresty throwback is, Wes Craven’s original Hills and Alexandre Aja’s brutal follow up still hold their own in terms of nuance and sheer brutality – which something that sadly can’t be said about their respective sequels.
Craven’s botched Hills Have Eyes Part II may rank as possibly one of the worst movies ever made by a legitimate horror legend (a fucking dog gets a flashback) and in 2007, the remake got a sequel of its own that, while being way better made than that 1985 travesty, went all out to be nasty for nasty’s sake with off putting results.
After the harrowing assault that halved the population of an all-American family, apparently the military moved into that abandoned military base located in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico and cleared out any surviving members of the clan of cannibalistic mutants still taking refuge there.
However, it seems that the army hasn’t exactly been as thorough as it could have been (shock, horror) and some of the lumpy-headed fuckers have managed to not only evade the cull, but have gone back to their old habits of snatching women for breeding stock and everyone else for the cooking pot. After a team of bumbling National Guardsmen in training are dispatched to resupply some miltary technicians installing some surveillance equipment, they are horrified to find out that they have been reduced to twitching mounds of bloody meat by the surviving mutants that have taken to lurking in the mine shafts that pepper the local area. After our potential victims have all had just enough time to establish the barest threads of their respective personalities (pacifist, mother, himbo, angry, fat, white – etc), they are immediately beset by the mine dwellers who are desperate to up the numbers of their clan and kill anyone else without a womb.
The initial wave sees the trainees have their numbers decimated by this more aggressive clan led by the brutish Papa Hades and one of their female number dragged away to receive some truly horrific one-on-one time with the drooling patriarch, so the remaining soldiers head down into the mines to find a way out, fight off mutants with names like Sniffer and Chameleon and hopefully save their comrade from a fate truly worse than death.
So before we wade chest deep into the many things wrong with this rushed out sequel (it only came out a year after the remake), lets start with some plus points – as limited as they are… Firstly, even though the movie is shot in that same, glossy-but-gritty, music video look that every noughties horror seemed to have in the wake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, it’s still looks pretty slick with the desolate New Mexico landscapes looking cavernous under a deep blue sky. Elsewhere, gorehounds will find themselves well catered to as the story gives us a near endless stream of crushed skulls, hacked of limbs and other acts of extreme, unwilling body modification as these new mutants go about their business like they have an psycho, inbred massacre quota to fill.
However, in spite of all of this and the fact that the pace of thing moves like greased shit off a shovel, The Hills Have Eyes 2 is content to simply be as morally repugnant as it possibly can bothering to temper any of its extreme images with anything close to resembling satire or social commentary. In comparison, Wes Craven’s original classic is not only loaded with riffs on the thin line that stands between civilised behavior and acting like a fucking animal when the chips are down while simultaneously drawing parallels between the two, warring families, he also measures the brutality for maximum effect. The infamous attack and rape scene is placed around the middle of the film in order to not only plainly lay out how dangerous and animalistic these people are, but it also gives the victim time to gather herself after the fact and fight back – however, in the 2007 movie, the first thing we see is a beaten and raped naked woman having a malformed baby yanked out of her nether regions and then killed. At another moment, single mother Missy is spirited away from the group and violently sexually assaulted in an act that goes on for several scenes as the rest of the cast blindly stumble around through the labyrinthian mine trying to find her and its here that you finally clock that director Martin Weisz has confused scary and intense with unpalatable and the awful act is avenged in in a simplistic way by the character belatedly smashing her rapist in the dick a few times with a sledgehammer.
Maybe all the gratuitous sexual assault might have meant something if the filmmakers had anything to say other than “rapey mutants bad”, but even the fact that the clan seems to have been created and utterly mishandled by military carelessness seems to have escaped the scripts attention and instead mumbles some weak comparisons with the conflicts in the middle east… or something.
The non-deformed cast are universally awful, with every single one of the national guard recruits being insipid, unlikeable meat sacks who rage and whine and die in no particular order to no real effect other than to show off some cool effects. On the other hand, the movie was a great opportunity to delve deeper into these clans and find out more about them – what’s the relationship between Papa’s Jupiter and Hades? Is there different clans for different areas? Why are they so strong? However, where the remake chose to make the clan members all noticable different, the sequel instead chooses to make all of the mutants bumpy-headed bezerkers with only the occasional cool attribute to help you tell them apart. Chameleon’s crusty epidermis allows him to hide in plain sight against rocks and Sniffer is virtually blind despite his vastly exaggerated, coke bottle glasses, but all the others mostly look the same display none of the character of Pluto and Lizard from the previous flick. The script also tries to play the old “good mutant” trick once again by substituting mutant child Ruby for the bafflingly benevolent Hansel, but no real explanation is given for why a grown clan member, brought up in violence and squalor, would be so nice other than the film desperately needs someone to guide the idiotic leads at that point. Still, a least it doesn’t have a dog flashback…
Relentlessly grim with none of the redeeming features that Craven and Aja’s versions deployed to enhance the brutality, The Hills Have Eyes 2 is an exhausting slog through violence for violence’s sake that will make far more cross than scared.
The hills may have eyes, but they certainly don’t have any fucking decorum…