Let me see if I've got this straight. In 1977, Wes Craven unleashed 'The Hills Have Eyes,' a crude but effective little shocker that, alongside 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and Craven's own 'The Last House on the Left,' ranks as one of the most notorious horror flicks of the decade. Then, in 1985, Craven directed a cheap, completely dreadful sequel, 'The Hills Have Eyes 2,' which had little to do with the first film and was quickly forgotten. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and in 2006, amidst a string a recent remakes came a new version of 'The Hills Have Eyes,' directed by French shock auteur Alexander Aja ('High Tension'). Now we have 'The Hills Have Eyes 2,' a sequel to the 2006 remake that bears absolutely no relationship to Craven's 1985 sequel to his original. Got that?
I bore you with this historical detail not to impress you with my Wikipedia skills, but rather to point out the inanity of the fact that we've had four films with the words 'The Hills Have Eyes' in the title, when really only one would have sufficed. There's no mistaking the fact that the original film was intended to be nothing more than a drive-in exploitation movie, but typical of Craven's output in the '70s, it was also a subversive examination of man's seemingly insatiable appetite for violent retribution. Though Craven has made some awful movies in his time, he's always possessed an intelligence rare for a genre director, and the story of his original 'Hills Have Eyes' was particularly crafty in the way it pitted a seemingly "civilized' midwestern family against a group of in-bred mutant cannibals, and then watched as any and all lines of distinction between the two were erased by the end of the film's bloody 89 minutes. The original 'Hills Have Eyes' may have been a schlocky product of its time, but at least it was actually about something.
The fact that the new 'Hills Have Eyes 2' seems to bear absolutely no similarities to the original wouldn't be much of a surprise were it not it not for the fact that the film was actually written by Craven himself (he even roped his son Jonathan into this mess as co-screenwriter). Regardless, this is a mean-spirited, cliched and wholly unnecessary follow-up, and one that seems to exist solely to capitalize on the box office success of the 2006 remake. To my eyes, there's literally not a single unique or insightful thought to be found in this film -- instead, all we get is yet another excuse for new and inventive ways to torture, mutilate and kill people. I can only speculate that Craven has either jumped on the torture porn bandwagon in the hopes of staying relevant, or is seriously behind in his mortgage payments.
'Hills Have Eyes 2' barely even has a setup. A brief title card informs us that it's been two years since the events of the previous film. The survivors have apparently alerted the authorities, and the government is now planning to bomb the site and eradicate the mutants. Of course the mission fails, forcing the government to send in yet another crack military team to the diffuse the situation, only this time it's a troop of soldiers-in-training fresh out of boot camp. Worse, the mutants' numbers have dwindled, so now they are looking to repopulate their species, and wouldn't ya know it, there just happens to be a disproportionately large percentage of scantily-clad, well-endowed females among the military crew...
This film is filled with so many cliches and plot holes I can't possibly list them all. Instead, I'll just ask a few basic questions. How come, ever since 'ALIENS,' every horror sequel requires that the military send in a bunch of dufus grunts who can't even hold a rifle straight? (Really, if a bunch of mutants murdered an entire family and were now threatening a mass invasion, wouldn't we mount our best defense?) How come, in this age of highly advanced telecommunications technology, the grunts inevitably lose contact with the base when any idiot can use a cell phone? Finally, how is it that these mutants (who have been stuck living in caves for decades, apparently eating only rocks and insects) are all the size of a house and have superhuman strength?
I might have been able to suspend my disbelief for such silliness had 'Hills Have Eyes 2' actually been scary, but unfortunately the filmmakers fail to heed the cardinal rule of any horror film: if we don't care about the characters, we aren't going to give a shit when they die. Instead, the film feels like an incredibly boring game of cinematic bowling, with each of the nondescript pins being knocked down one by one (and in even gorier fashion here, as this Blu-ray showcases the unrated cut of the film). All 'The Hills Have Eyes 2' has going for it is a series of well-executed make-up effects, but did the filmmakers really think that would be enough to sustain the interest of horror fans?
I wish I could say 'The Hills Have Eyes 2' was campy enough to qualify for a few unintentional laughs, but it's not. Simply put, there's no need for this film to exist, nor is there a reason for you to see it. In fact, I'd argue that you've already wasted too much of your time even reading this review. My advice is to rent the original, superior 1977 version of 'The Hills Have Eyes,' and call it even. Trust me -- it has all the cannibal mutants you'll ever need to see in your entire lifetime.
Although the initial specs that Fox sent along for 'Hills Have Eyes 2' indicated that this Blu-ray edition would feature a 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer, in fact this is an AVC MPEG-4 encode. Whatever the case, it looks very good, with an attractive picture that's surprisingly bright and detailed, showcasing every last ounce of gore that's been splattered up on the screen.
The slick visual look of 'The Hills Have Eyes 2' is certainly a long way from the grainy no-budget look of the original. Aside from some noise in lower light scenes, the image looks pristine throughout. Blacks are dead-on, and colors are nicely saturated but generally not overdone. Despite the fact that almost the entire movie takes place in a bunch of dark caves, shadow delineation is generally excellent, with only a slight black crush in a handful of shots to muck things up. Detail and depth are also strong, and the image is always sharp. Again, aside from the aforementioned noise, there are no compression problems or other source defects. A bloody good show -- and certainly a transfer that's far better than this marginal flick deserves.
'The Hills Have Eyes 2' is the latest in a long line of horror flicks that can't generate any true dramatic tension, so instead they just ramp up the soundtrack so loud that you can't help but be scared simply by the decibel level. So here we go again with the same tiresome shock sound effects screaming out of the rear channels -- it may be "effective," but so is hitting yourself in the head with a hammer for 86 minutes.
To be fair, this DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) is very good at what it does. For a fairly low-budget horror flick, it has been well-recorded and nicely polished in post-production. Deep bass is hefty, while the high range is clean, spacious and not too bright. All the piercing sound effects aside, this is actually a pretty talky picture, and every single line of bad dialogue comes through loud and clear. Surrounds are lively and engaging, with nice localization of discrete effects and a fairly seamless continuity as sounds are panned around the soundfield. My only technical complaint is that the score often recedes so far into the background that I often forgot it was even there.
Fox has carved up a decent number of supplements for 'The Hills Have Eyes 2.' Unfortunately, it's all surface EPK stuff, with just about everyone involved in the movie looking slightly embarrassed.
Since there's no audio commentary, the main "insight" comes from a trio of featurettes. "Exploring the Hills: Making of 'The Hills Have Eyes 2'" (13 minutes) is a formulaic if entertaining enough overview of the film's gestation and the very tough Moroccan shoot; "Mutant Attacks" (also 13 minutes) is all about the film's effective make-up designs and the preponderance of gore; finally, "Birth of a Graphic Novel" (again 13 minutes) is just that -- a commercial for the comic book tie-in.
The only other major extra is an assortment of four Deleted Scenes. Running only 3 minutes in total, these are mostly just extended or superfluous dialogue bits that don't add anything to the already-poor characterizations. There is also an Alternate Ending that runs 1 minute, but it's no better than what's in the final cut.
(Note that all of the extras listed above are presented in 1080i/MPEG-2 video, including the trailers.)
'The Hills Have Eyes 2' is a truly dreadful sequel. It has no real characters, no real story, and no real point. Having said all that, if you happen to be a fan of the film or are glutton for punishment, you can pick this Blu-ray up without hesitation. It's got sharp video, strong audio and a fairly good batch of supplements.