Hidden in the long shadow of Wes Craven’s success lies the lost opportunities of The Hills Have Eyes Part 2.
The legacy of a film maker is arguably linked to the originality, influence and social impact of their work. Wes Craven is without a doubt one of the greatest modern day genre directors since his 1972 feature debut, The Last House on the Left. Since then, Craven has written and directed some of the most iconic films of his generation, including The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Swamp Thing (1982), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The People Under the Stairs (1991) and Scream (1996). A number of these original creations have spawned sequels and remakes which only cemented Craven’s reputation as a horror auteur.
With the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven became a household name and overnight success, even though he had been working on his craft for more than 12 years by this stage. But the cost and potential learning curve involved in achieving the status of legendary film maker can be incredibly steep. After Craven’s cult-like success with The Hills Have Eyes in 1977, he was the perfect, if not only, choice to return for the sequel seven years later. The film was shot 18 months before the eventual release of …Elm Street, but The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 was left in incomplete limbo due to cash flow and budgeting concerns and Craven was dropped from the process. The profound and unexpected success of A Nightmare of Elm Street forced the hands of producers and they were desperate for Craven to return and complete and edit the film. What followed was a unique film which has gained an urban legend level of infamy.
Bobby (Robert Houston), one of only two survivors of the original The Hills Have Eyes, is still significantly haunted by the events of torture and violence that destroyed his family. Bobby and Ruby, the other survivor, now called Rachel (Janus Blythe), have formulated a new super fuel mixture which they hope to unveil during a motocross event, oddly and conveniently running straight through the desert area where the original played out, joined by handsome hero Roy (Kevin Spirtas), his blind girlfriend Cass (Tamara Stafford), comedy relief Harry (Peter Frechette) as well as Foster (Willard Pugh), Hulk (John Laughlin), and Sue (Penny Johnson). The group, predictably, gets lost on the way to the race and happen across a seemingly deserted mining compound and almost immediately the attacks begin as Pluto (Michael Berryman) and The Reaper (John Bloom) avenge their lost cannibal family.
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 was obviously and significantly hampered by production issues, but the problems are even more pronounced and immediate than that. Pluto is a staggeringly ineffective antagonist as his initial attacks are thwarted without much difficulty. In addition, he is given an unbelievable amount of dialogue that is superfluous and wooden. The entire film is preposterously dialogue heavy which deflates any danger or dread. The appearance of The Reaper also does nothing to improve the menace or tension as he is nothing more than a bumbling, grinning oaf with atrocious fashion sense. These concerns should be enough to leave the film dead and buried in the bloodless desert sands, but unfortunately we are not afforded this mercy.
It is difficult to know if Wes Craven was more upset at the lack of budget during the initial filming or the fact that he had to return to complete the production, what is obvious though, is that Craven had lost all creative interest in this sequel to his 1972 original. This is proven most clearly in the numerous flashback scenes that are peppered throughout and only appears to serve as a means to pad out the running time to a brisk 86 minutes, which in itself, is the only redeeming aspect of the film. Craven even made the inexplicable decision to give the dog – yes the dog – a flashback of his very own. This choice, along with so many other strange and unironic flourishes, would have contributed significantly to a biting satire or witty pastiche, but The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is a humourless and artistically devoid blemish on Craven’s lengthy legacy.
Limited Edition Content:
- Brand new 2K restoration
- Blood, Sand and Fire: The Making of The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 – a brand new documentary including interviews with Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Production designer Dominick Bruno, Composer Harry Manfredini and unit Production manager/ First Assistant Director John Callas.
- Still Gallery
- 6 Postcards
- Reversible fold-out poster
- 40 Page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amanda Reyes and an archival set visit from Fangoria
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
- Original uncompressed Mono Audio
- High definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
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