Review: “The Hills Have Eyes II”

This is the 2007 sequel to the 2006 remake of the original 1977 film which got its own sequel in 1985 which bears no relation to the 2007 sequel. Whew, a rather circuitous route to get to this point and what a point it is – one of the dullest excuses of a video nasty to ever get a theatrical release.

Alexandre Aja’s 2006 remake of the Wes Craven low-budget original was a surprisingly enjoyable retro splat pack picture. A solid cast starred as an average family inexorably caught up in irradiated mutant shenanigans when their car breaks down in a remote area of New Mexico. Along with the fun premise and paranoia themes, there was actually some effective suspense and Aja’s solid eye which made for some interesting visuals.

This sequel on the other hand is pure paint by the numbers in every way possible. Taking the “Aliens” approach, the story sees a field of well armed National Guard trainees out to deliver equipment who come upon the mutants that weren’t wiped out before. Before? Yes the cliffhanger ending of the first film is dumped entirely in some text intro screens. Seems the survivors made it out, alerted the authorities, and the military came through – wiping out the mutants they found. Unfortunately some survived and are out to take revenge.

There’s mistake #1 right there – your opening scrawl describing events far more interesting than anything that happens in the subsequent picture. Indeed the move seems a very obviously calculated one – it allows for a completely new, much cheaper cast to be shoved into the action. And what do we get for action? A lot of bad attempts at bland characterization, interspersed with moments of pathological violence and all set to an ear-splitting bombastic score.

The dull solider characters blend together along the usual stereotype lines – the macho man, the moron, peace lover, the loud Sergeant, etc. Only the two women of the piece have any personality, which makes the mini-rescue mission for one of them one of the better scenes of the film. Kudos also to the idea of having mutants pop out of tunnels like trapdoor spiders – it’s one of the few real creative elements of Wes Craven’s surprisingly dull screenplay.

With an interesting training scenario set up early on, the film had the potential to make some strong political statements – it dumps that entirely however though has enough time to build in some “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” like awful Government conspiracy elements for use no doubt in further sequels. Likewise the kills are all surprisingly bland, leaving a jump involving a person coming out of a Port-A-Loo sticking in your memory far longer than the assorted mutants leaping off rocks with hammers.

It could work if there was some suspense or scares, hell even dark humour, but director Martin Weisz shoots the Moroccan location with surprising flatness – short of some clever cliff-climbing action he never yields any real tension out of the scenarios and shoots with surprising conservatism – this is in spite of the gory moments pushing the boundaries into new levels of grotesqueness.

It is a particularly mean film, especially in its use of rape almost as a weapon, and combined with the utterly gross opening moments involving a captured woman’s forced impregnation leading to the birth of a mutant baby, it’s a real nasty picture that serves as another shining example of the sorry state of horror filmmaking these days – substituting genuine scares with depraved gory visual effects that are far more disgusting than actually disturbing.