Lee Thompson Young
Michael Bailey Smith
90 mins or so.
Mutant Desert Horror Remake Sequel
Trivia The mine shafts were created by the same team who are responsible for the caves in Brit horror The Descent.
Wes Craven and his son John wrote the screenplay in a month.
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The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)
5th Apr 07
A group of National Guard trainees find themselves battling against a vicious group of mutants that look a lot like the ones from the first movie.
Before we start, let’s clear something up. The Hills Have Eyes 2 is not a remake of 1985’s The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, which was itself a sequel to 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes, but an unrelated sequel to last years The Hills Have Eyes remake. Those of you who have seen the old sequel will remember it was all about one of the feral family integrating into society and then going back to the desert, with the old cast, and everybody had flashbacks, including the surviving dog from the first film. And flashbacks mean that you can regurgitate half the footage from the old film to pad the running time out, and that’s exactly what they did. Ironically, I’m sure there are a lot of horror fans out there that wish they’d done the same thing with this new remake.
The Hill Have Eyes 2, you see, has very little connection to the film before both in terms of characters or location. Remember that cool desert village from the first film where the mutant with the weirdly big head was sat in a wheelchair? Well, that’s gone, now the mutants all live in caves. And similarly gone are the cast from the first film, although apparently this was a scheduling issue rather than anything else. Originally Wes Craven and his son John started the script with the idea to bring back Emilie De Ravin (who played the daughter in the first film) under the pretence that she’d joined the army and was now being sent back to the scene, but she was well into filming the third season of Lost and so was unavailable. In her absence they kept the army trainee plot (possibly because they only had a month to complete the script) and replaced her with a new character, Amber Johnson, played by the almost impossibly pretty Jessica Stroup, and surrounded her with a bunch of unashamedly good looking unknowns whose names you similarly forget as soon as they get bumped off. For make no mistake, this is a pure sequel in the simplest of terms, which can stand proudly along side movies like Friday the 13th Part 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Halloween 2, for example, in the sense that it’s a pale shadow of it’s prequel with thoroughly disposable characters, a wafer thin plot, cheesy dialogue and a predictable increase gory look-away moments.
Briefly, the story is very simple. A small group of scientists are running tests out in the desert at the location of the first film, or rather in the tunnels underground to be more exact, where there are handfuls of dummies sat around desks in bunkers which you presume are relics from the nuclear testing days of the 1950s and 1960s. A group of new recruit soldiers on a training exercise nearby are told to stop off at the scientists’ camp and deliver a bit of equipment they need, or something, but when they arrive the camp is strangely deserted. Then one of the recruits spots a light shining on a nearby pile of rocks so half the team break out the ammo and head off to investigate, leaving the others behind to man the radio. And it’s while they’re away that those left behind find the scientist that has literally been stuff down the toilet, and they discover that they aren’t the only ones alive around here. And with this startling revelation, the remaining troops head off to warn the others, hoping to get to them before it’s too late.
The original The Hills Have Eyes, and last year’s sequel too, worked for many ways, but it was our empathy with the main characters, both good and bad, which dragged us along and gradually increased the tension throughout the film. The good guys caught on a mountain road you feel sorry for and scared for and your fingers are permanently crossed. The mutants, too, you hate, but there’s quite clearly a structured society on the go here and, since they know no better, you could be forgiven for feeling empathy for them too. Did you feel bad at seeing the girl with wonky eyes’ fate at the end of the 2006 movie? We did, but no such feelings erupt around this film. They are just cardboard characters here, and you couldn’t care less whether they live or die. You don’t dislike them or like them as such, you’re just not bothered. The mutants come across as rubber monsters and the good guys just feel like dumb army recruits, and you’re more interested in how and when they bite it rather than hope for them to survive. Naturally this means that for this film tension is, in nearly every way, nonexistent.
But if you have the sense to check your critical brain in with your coat as you’re buying your popcorn, you could have a lot of fun with The Hills Have Eyes 2. If you want to see characters doing the wrong thing, walking down the wrong corridor, leaving bad guys for dead when they obviously aren’t and sprouting inane dialogue like “We have to go back for her! I’d have gone back for you!” then you’re in business. Similarly if you love shouting “Don’t look in that hole you idiot!” or “Smack him again he’s not dead!” you’ll love this and, if the comments on imdb.com are anything to go by, it sounds like a lot of people enjoy that kind of thing, and I admit I have to include myself in that category. Let’s just say that at the press screening I attended the audience was firmly split between journalists shaking their heads in disappointment and journalists doubled over in stitches. I for one have never seen a character take a sledgehammer to the groin before, nor have I ever heard so many men in the audience shout out in sympathy at the same time. If you were there I think you already know what your reaction would have been and whether this is for you, now don’t you.