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THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2
Unrated

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Michael McMillian, Jessica Stroup, Jacob Vargas, Flex Alexander, Lee Thompson Young, Daniella Alonso
Director: Martin Weisz
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: July 17, 2007

“To be honest with you, I’m not sure God knows anything about this place.”

Film **

Last year’s remake of The Hills Have Eyes was a masterful piece of ferocious, in-your-face horror. It was both a splatter picture as well as a horror movie that was able to inject a constant level of fear upon the viewer. It was quite a disturbing flick as well, but you have to hand it to director Alexandre Aja, who really knows how to test the limits of an audience.

The film was a hit, and any hit horror movie usually gets a sequel the very next year, which is exactly when The Hills Have Eyes 2 was released.  And like too many horror movie sequels, this one feels solely like a studio-requested film, in that the exact purpose for its existence is to make money just as the first one did. If you come to see the gory glory as was displayed in the first film, then you’ll be satisfied, however if you’re expecting the same raw and unflinching style associated with Alexandre Aja’s vision, you won’t find it, as this sequel has a lesser effect.

Quite disappointing since the script was penned by none other than Wes Craven and his son, Jonathan. My guess is the father and son team were just intending on a script in which everything is quick and to the point, or they were pressured by the studio to come up with something quick. After all, Wes is the one responsible for the original 1977 film, which remains a genre classic.

The story picks up not too long after the events in the first movie. The focus this time around is that of a rookie National Guard squad. I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen a film involving the National Guard before, and if this was the first film to do so, I feel sorry for them. I mean if the Coast Guard is depicted triumphantly in something like The Guardian, the National Guard should get similar cinematic treatment right?

Anyway, I’m drifting away from the point. The group of trainees are ordered to deliver supplies to a group of soldiers and scientists in the deserts of New Mexico. They are installing a monitoring system in an area known as Sector 16. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s pretty much the same area where the cannibals resided in the last film. By now, anyone can guess where the story is going.

They arrive to find absolutely no one in sight. No scientists, no soldiers, nothing. What they do come across is a serious distress signal coming from the hills. It now becomes a rescue mission.

What follows is the ultimate predictable pattern for a horror movie; the soldiers get picked off one by one (matter of fact, I think even one characters utters that exact phrase when he realizes they’re getting picked off one by one). There's lots of blood spewing to be had along the way. And there’s even a disgusting rape scene which exist only to upstage the one in the first movie. Uggghhhh!

But all the blood and graphic violence can’t make up for what is really lost here in comparison to the first movie, which is the consistent feeling of fear and claustrophobia that Alexandre Aja provided. I really felt a sense of fright throughout that movie. Here, that wasn’t the case at all as much as it was simply the predictable pattern of characters getting picked off, scene by scene. And a good bit of the movie takes place in a darkened mine shaft, and the effect is something less than last year’s superb cave-bound horror flick, The Descent (coincidentally, the same cinematographer shot both movies).

So while there is gore galore to be enjoyed in The Hills Have Eyes 2, there is very little else to be appreciated. The characters are flat, the story is almost non-existent, and even the cannibalistic creatures aren’t as frightening this time around. And when compared to the first film, in terms of all around effect, this one can’t even begin to hold a candle.

Video ***1/2

The anamorphic presentation from Fox is quite pristine and crisp. The image is strong in it’s presenting of the desert setting, and when it switches gears to the darkened mine shaft for the last half of the movie the image is still in top form. A slight hint of image softness is detected but nothing major. All in all a top-notch presentation.

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix is very striking and effective in enhancing the ferocious sound associated with modern horror fare. The blood and gory scenes play off furiously, while music playback and dialogue delivery are also heard in a truly superb form. Terrific display of dynamic range, for sure!

Features ***

Though lacking a commentary track (to be honest, what all needs to be explained?), this Unrated release from Fox does include some bloody savory extras. There are four featurettes; “Mutant Attacks”
Birth Of A Graphic Novel, “Exploring The Hills: The Making Of The Hills Have Eyes 2” and “Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School featuring Wes Craven. Also featured are Deleted Scenes, an Alternate Ending and a Gag Reel.

Summary:

High on gore but low on effect, The Hills Have Eyes 2 is a horror movie sequel that is simply going through the motions in terms of a typical, endless body count genre flick. In the end, you’re better off just going back and watching either the original classic or last year’s remake, as this sequel is nowhere near their level.

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