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The Hills Have Eyes 2 (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

The Hills Have Eyes 2

THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 (2007)

Starring Michael McMillian, Jessica Stroup, Daniella Alonso, Jacob Vargas, Lee Thompson Young, Ben Crowley, Eric Edelstein, Reshad Strik, Michael Bailey Smith, David Reynolds, Derek Mears, Tyrell Kemlo, Jason Oettle, Gaspar Szabo, Jeff Kober, Jay Acovone and Archie Kao.

Screenplay by Jonathan Craven & Wes Craven.

Directed by Martin Weisz.

Distributed by Fox Atomic.  89 minutes.  Rated R.

I’m not sure that there was really ever any reason to remake the 70s-geek-horror film The Hills Have Eyes, and I’m very sure there is really no need for a sequel to the remake.  The Hills Have Eyes 2 is not, I believe, a remake of the 1985 sequel of the same name (though I haven’t seen that film, so I can’t swear to it).  The fact that at this point Wes Craven has played a part in making four Hills Have Eyes movies makes you think maybe he should take it easy and retire on all the Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street money he has coming in.  After all, he has legacy as a horror legend to protect.  But here is the sequel to the remake, which is apparently not a remake of the sequel — and turns out that while it’s not close to being great or even good, it is at least a little better — or maybe simply easier to stomach — than the last go around.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 certainly has more violent acts and killings than the remake, yet it does not share French director Alexandre Aja’s (High Tension) horribly sadistic and disturbing bent from The Hills Have Eyes — as best demonstrated by the infamous scene in the last version in which a mutant holds a gun to a baby’s head to force the mother to allow him to suck her lactating breast.  There was also an extended scene of the family patriarch being burned alive while his family is unable to do anything to help.

There are plenty of pretty graphic moments here, but most of them are quick and do not have this kind of cold-hearted detachment.  In fact, surprisingly many of the corpses here simply get shot or fall from great heights.  (Though one murder, of a man attacked from a cave while climbing the face of a cliff and an exceedingly ugly rape sequence do come close to the twisted storytelling which the last one supplied.)

There are also many more of the mutants hiding in the hills killing off men and raping women who have the bad fortune to stumble upon their home.  The last film seemed to have three or four of these mutated killers out in the desert rocks.  In fact it turns out that there is a whole little society of these people — who have apparently been greatly scarred and changed by nuclear testing.  They live in the shadows, killing and eating unfortunate tourists and periodically kidnapping women to breed.

Unfortunately, this film jettisons the idea of making the victims interesting and likable characters.  At least the last one knew to do that.

After the unfortunate family was nearly completely butchered in the last film, the Army sets up a base to eradicate the mutants hiding in the desert.

Therefore, they send a group of National Guardmen in to take care of things.  Of course, there is a prologue which shows the entire battalion to be a group of screw-ups who miserably fail in a war games scenario, so you do have to wonder why the military would send these losers in to take care of a dangerous top-secret scourge.  Also, none of the soldiers are actually warned of what they are expected to do once they get out to the deserted area, or what kind of evil they may experience.  Therefore you have a whole group of macho assholes (and two women) fighting each other and posturing as they get picked off, one by one.

The real problem — and this is one that has dogged the whole series — is that the mutants are either going to scare the hell out of you or look a little ridiculous.  I tend more to the latter camp.  With all the goopy makeup, bruised and mashed faces, snaggleteeth, the grunting, the drool and blood, they look like circus geeks gone cannibal.  They all look like rejected Muppets — it’s really hard to take them seriously as threats.

Not that anyone should ever take anything in any of these films seriously.  Despite the fact that screenwriters Craven and his son Jonathan make some empty suggestions early on that this may be some kind of statement on the war in Iraq, this tact goes nowhere.  The Hills Have Eyes movies aren’t social commentary, at least not in this serious a vein.  They are sort of like the freaks tent at an old carnival — creepy, disturbing, dirty and just vaguely embarrassing to have spent good money on.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: June 23, 2007.

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