The Hills Have Eyes Pt. 2
Cast - Michael Berryman, Robert Houston, Janus Blythe
Country of Origin - U.S.
Director - Wes Craven
MSRP - $19.95
Distributor - Kino
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
The Film: 2/5
For Bobby Carter (Robert Houston) the nightmare that befell him and his family eight years ago will never end even as his life goes on. During a vacation the Carters got lost in the desert near an abandoned nuclear testing site and were preyed upon by a clan of feral mutant psychopaths with a taste for human flesh. Only Bobby, his brother-in-law Doug, Doug’s infant daughter Katy, and Ruby (Janus Blythe) - the youngest and most sympathetic member of the cannibal family - survived the massacre. Now Bobby and Ruby (currently going by the name Rachel) are the owners of a motorcross racing team heading out into the desert - not far from where the Carters were attacked - for an important race. Bobby is unable to put the past behind him and refuses to go on the trip so Rachel goes in his place, although she has her own set of reservations. Along for the ride are blind woman Cass (Tamara Stafford), her boyfriend Roy (Kevin Blair), Jane (Colleen Riley), Sue (Penny Johnson), Harry (Peter Frechette), Hulk (John Laughlin), and Foster (Willard Pugh).
As the team reaches the barren wasteland where Rachel once dwelled among the mutants their trusted red school bus starts leaking gas, stranding them for the night. It isn’t long before the remnants of Rachel’s old family - brother Pluto (Michael Berryman) and the Randall “Tex” Cobb-looking uncle Reaper (John Bloom) - make their presence known. After a series of concentrated attacks the group is splintered and forced to fight for their lives against an evil force that intends to show them no mercy.
There are bad movies. There are bad Wes Craven movies. And then there’s The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, a movie so monumentally atrocious that its own director abhors its very existence. Bear in mind that Craven is also the director of Vampire in Brooklyn, Cursed, My Soul to Take, and of course Scream 4. This is not an illustrious filmography we’re speaking of here. In a career spanning more than four decades Craven has made a handful of horror classics and a few solid fright fests, but more often than not the filmmaker fails spectacularly in trying to recreate his past triumphs when it’s clear he only succeeds when he’s exploring fresh and fascinating terrain. With The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 Craven was making a movie only because he desperately needed the money and since its release he has never hesitated in admitting so. The film had actually been shot a year prior to the making of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the phantasmagorical horror masterpiece that would definitively launch his career, but sat on distributor Castle Hill Productions’ shelves for two years before receiving a perfunctory theatrical release. Eventually it would embrace its ultimate fate of sitting next to its far superior predecessor in video story purgatory, forever going without a single rental while the cooler older brother got all the attention (and rightfully so).
It’s incredibly difficult to even call The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 a movie; it reeks of a hastily-assembled product constructed from the shoddiest of elements and held together, but just barely, by moldy chewing gum and false hope. The plot, if you want to call it that, is little more than a pathetic attempt to meld a tired slasher movie template onto the original’s story, without the copious gore of the former and the relentless tension and primal terror of the latter. There is not a trace of suspense or horror in this film. The characters are all disposable and serve only to provide cannon fodder for Pluto and Reaper to burn through. Craven made the boneheaded decision to pad out the running time with excessive flashbacks to the original Hills Have Eyes. This does nothing but make you want to watch the original instead of the piece-of-shit sequel; Silent Night, Deadly Night II also had that problem. The goddamned dog even gets a flashback. I wonder if that particular scene inspired the monkey flashback from Being John Malkovich.
There are times when Craven is able to conjure up some of the old black magic. The locations are suitably depressed and isolated and the cinematography by David Lewis (who also worked on Night of the Demons and UHF) paints the nighttime action in glorious, paranoia-inducing darkness. Craven also tosses in some absurd touches like Pluto taking one of the team’s motorbikes and leading Roy on a chase. The Reaper character is built up to be a terrifying presence but he ends up looking like the killer from the infamous cheapo slasher Don’t Go in the Woods….Alone. The lack of tension forcibly coupled with goofy story bits like those results in The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 becoming a marvel of unintentional comedy. That doesn’t make it any less of a boring and insipid cash grab that would make George Lucas shake his head sadly.
When Redemption first announced the Blu-ray release of The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 it was widely believed that the disc would feature the movie in its original widescreen format for the first time in the U.S. Sadly that is not the case here. What we get is a unsurprisingly lackluster 1.66: 1 full frame transfer and a shrill English 2.0 soundtrack that doesn’t the movie justice, and given that the movie is already boring enough an improvement in picture and sound quality might have boosted its overall like ability. Harry Manfredini’s score, which sounds like out takes from his Friday the 13th soundtracks, takes the spotlight. No subtitles are provided.
The only extras on offer here are a 3-minute trailer for The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 that is much more entertaining than the actual feature, a still gallery of video box art and production photos, and trailers for five films by Jean Rollin available from Redemption - The Nude Vampire, The Shiver of the Vampires, The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood, and Fascination. I guess we should be happy we got this much in the way of supplements seeing as how the world would rather forget this movie was ever made.
If you need further proof of how bad The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is then consider this: of all the films he has made in his four-decade career (which included a brief stint shooting porno) Wes Craven has only ever disowned two of those features. One of them is this movie and the other isn’t Cursed or My Soul to Take. Yeah, it’s that bad. A purely mercenary endeavor nearly bereft of entertainment value, Craven’s misguided sequel is a serious waste of time and potential that just shows how desperate video distributors are for lazy product to stick on Blu-ray. Ignore the glaring banner on the front cover that reads WES CRAVEN’S HORROR CLASSIC and don’t bother with this one.