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THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  John Laughlin, Michael Berryman, John Bloom, Tamara Stafford, Janus Blythe
Director:  Wes Craven
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Image Entertainment
Features:  Theatrical Trailer
Length:  87 Minutes
Release Date:  September 3, 2002

“You never should have gotten off the road.”

Film **

The hills have eyes, and the dogs have flashbacks, in one of the most bizarre horror sequels ever filmed.

It seems that Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is nearly universally regarded as the worst of the worst when it comes to said horror sequels (come ON, this is a genre that produced no less than nine sequels to Friday the 13th!).  Truth be told, it’s not that bad.  It’s not that good, either, but it doesn’t help that it’s the seven year follow-up to a truly landmark fright film.

Part 2 has very little going for it, relying instead on a few lengthy flashbacks to the first movie to establish some semblance of terror (and yes, as mentioned, the dog has one, too).  The original centered around the clash between two families:  one group of people lost in the desert, and one group of preying cannibalistic hill dwellers.  The sequel returns two of the victimized characters:  one is too scared to return to the site of the murderous mayhem, and the other isn’t, but later wishes she had been.

They are part of a young motocross team en route to a big event via bus.  As fate would have it, NOBODY on the bus on the date of their much anticipated race remembered to set their clocks back.  Their only solution is to try and cross the desert to make up for lost time.  Bad idea.

The vehicle breaks down (of course), and soon the kids find themselves facing our old friend Pluto (Berryman), the bald menacing member of the Jupiter family.  Jupiter died in the original; here we get a brother that was never mentioned before, called The Reaper (Bloom), a rather unsettling looking ogre.  Now they not only have the chance to kill again, but to exact revenge against a former one of their own.

All of this, as mentioned, isn’t really so bad…it’s just not very inspired, considering it’s from the same man who brought Nightmare on Elm Street to the screen a year earlier!  It seems hastily put together and shoddily constructed from start to finish.  The violence is somewhat limited, except for a rather gruesome throat-slitting, and the victim characters are completely blah compared to the villains…and then, we don’t get enough time with those villains.  The only interesting “good guy” is Cass (Stafford), a blind girl who makes a few too many self-depreciating jokes, and actually goes off exploring by herself in a strange cabin!

So no, The Hills Have Eyes 2 doesn’t merit the distinction of worst horror sequel ever, at least not in my book.  It merely bears the non-distinction of being an average, by-the-numbers and decidedly poor attempt to cash in on a much better preceding film.

Video **

I’ve never seen this movie in widescreen, so I don’t know whether the full frame presentation is director’s choice or not.  As far as I could tell, I didn’t notice any misframing to the left and right, just some occasionally awkward looking shots around the top and bottom, leading me to believe this is just an open matte presentation.  The real problem is the film itself, which isn’t in the best shape in the world.  The opening and ending stretches are particularly murky with residue, grain and other interfering factors present.  As the movie progresses, it gets a bit better.  Colors come across well…that red bus is a very distinct shade of red…and images get clearer and show more definition.  The overall dinginess can only be attributed to age, and not the transfer offered here by Image.  Basically, it needs a restoration job…and frankly, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Audio **1/2

The mono soundtrack is a little better than average here, owing to a few sequences that kick up the volume in just the right places, giving it some dynamic range.  Dialogue is clear, and I didn’t really notice much in the way of noise during the quieter parts.  The score by Harry Manfredini sounds fine, as well.  No real complaints.

Features *

Only a trailer.

Summary:

The hills are alive with the sound of sequels.  The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is a substandard follow up to a much worthier original…but how many sequels can you say that about?  Wes Craven devotees and cult fans may enjoy for specialized reasons, but apart from that, the audience for this offering is bound to be quite small.