I wasn't a huge fan of the remake of "The Hills Have Eyes", but at least appreciated director Alexandre Aja's ability to create an incredibly eerie mood in the desert setting, at least before all hell broke loose. The remake was able to ride the popularity of the wave of darker horror films that came out around the same time.
Given the success of the original (well, the remake), it's no surprise to see a sequel, with famed horror director (and director of the original original and original sequel) Wes Craven and his son Jonathan getting writing credits. However, it's quickly apparent that the Cravens should have retained Aja for the sequel, or at least handed off the writing duties to someone else.
The sequel opens a couple of years after the remake, with a National Guard troop failing a training mission and being sent out on a supply mission to "Section 16", a military testing facility that used to be the site of nuclear testing and has been taken over as the new home for a family of mutant cannibals.
So, the soldiers - who really are such one-dimensional characters that they should be named "Soldier 1", "Soldier 2", etc. - head off into the mountains after what they think is a distress call. Of course, those back at camp get a warning (from a guy who was hiding from the mutants in the porta toilet, I'm not kidding), but it takes them forever that gee, maybe people crawling out of toilets is a reason to warn those who've gone off on the "search and rescue" in the mountains.
As for the characters who head out into the mountains, they redefine the horror term, "Don't go in there!" These characters proceed to do some of the most dim-witted actions in horror that I can remember. Soon enough, their ropes have been taken so they're stuck on the top of the mountain and forced to head down through the caves where the mutants live.
"The Hills 2", at least until the second half, manages to have some unintentionally entertaining moments simply due to how ridiculous these characters are and how silly the performances are (although the dialogue in Craven's script - which sounds like it was thrown together at the last minute - doesn't help, either.) Director Martin Weisz (making his debut after doing music vid work) seems completely out of his element, as instead of hinting at danger and trying to build tension, he just has the mutants running around in the open, showing off some surprisingly so-so make-up work. A music video director without any sense of style? Weisz gives the movie a flat, low budget appearance that pales in comparison to Aja's visually haunting original, which put the barren locations to great use.
The second half gets progressively more unnecessarily graphic and unpleasant before wrapping up with a completely abrupt ending (the film doesn't end as much as completely come to a halt, with a text that lazily tries to tie things up) and a hint that a third film could be in the works. I can't see it happening after this entirely unnecessary sequel.
This unrated version runs about 90 minutes, so I can only imagine the theatrical cut was even shorter and a little less gory.
VIDEO: "Hills Have Eyes 2" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered very good image quality, with the only concerns being some slight artifacting on a few occasions. However, this is still not the final copy and unfortunately, I cannot make any firm comments on it, as the final copy will likely offer differing (and I'm hoping even better) image quality.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack did fare somewhat better, as the surrounds were used to good effect to suggest the mutants creeping around off-screen. Otherwise, this was a fairly standard action/horror mix; enough activity to satisfy, but certainly not enough to really surprise or for one to refer to this as demo material. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and effects.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, gag reel, alternate ending (one worse than the theatrical ending), "Mutant Attacks" featurette, "Birth of a Graphic Novel" featurette, "Exploring the Hills" featurette and finally, a Fox Movie Channel Presents featurette.
Final Thoughts: A lackluster sequel that seems rushed in order to get the film into theaters quickly after the original, "The Hills Have Eyes 2" feels like direct-to-video material. Skip it.
The Film D