The Hills Have Eyes II Review
Fifty years ago, in the hot, barren wastelands of New Mexico, the American government tested atomic bombs. Naturally, before they did so, they cleared out any civilians who lived nearby but one group of miners stubbornly refused to leave. The radiation from the atomic tests turned those miners into deformed mutants. They and their descendants have survived by living in the mines and preying on unwary passers-by, using their victims for food and breeding.
The latest unfortunates to stray into their territory are eight US National Guard trainees, who are being led on an exercise by their sergeant. They're being trained for mountain warfare, for combat against the Taliban. However, they're destined to face an enemy even more monstrous and much closer to home.
The Hills Have Eyes II opens with a naked, pregnant woman giving birth to a mutant baby, then having her neck broken by the father. Charming to be sure but at least it's memorable and genuinely horrifying. It's probably the only scene from Hills II that you will remember afterwards - well, apart from the guy who pops out of the latrine, covered in human faeces.
This is a very routine slasher sequel, a straight-to-video knock-off given a theatrical release it doesn't deserve. On video, with low expectations, it might be just about passable. That's a shame because the concept (The Hills Have Eyes meets Southern Comfort) did have some potential. The film also had an exceptionally good teaser trailer (the image of the dragged bodies isn't in the film) and you would have thought that Wes Craven, who created the original 1977 Hills Have Eyes and wrote the script for this with his son Jonathan, might have come up with some interesting new ideas for his mutants.
He hasn't. This film could have been written by any hack who's been following recent mainstream horror trends. The storyline is basically a re-run of the first Hills - mutants kill humans, surviving humans kill mutants - but missing the subtext that ordinary people are capable of violence, since this time the good guys are already trained soldiers. The script is so heavy with stock horror movie dialogue, it's unintentionally funny. The characters are mind-bogglingly stupid. They're supposed to be National Guardsmen but they behave like the teenage camp counsellors of Crystal Lake, wandering off by themselves (to audible groans from the audience) and getting picked off one by one. Ironic that Wes Craven's Scream made fun of this sort of idiotic plotting and now here he is ten years later, churning it out himself.
German director Martin Weisz contributes to the general mediocrity. While Hills I director Alexandre Aja made good use of the North African locations (both films were shot in Morocco), Weisz makes the sequel look cheap and ugly. The mutants also look tackier this time around - one reminded me of Sloth from The Goonies. The cast don't distinguish themselves.
Of course Hills II is spiced up with lashings of gore and sadism - bodies impaled, entrails eaten, limbs sliced off, heads smashed apart with rocks - but we've seen so much of that sort of thing over the last few years that it's lost most of its impact. What would have given Mary Whitehouse a seizure twenty years ago is making today's audiences laugh. The head-smashing scene was received with particular amusement by my fellow movie-goers.
Perhaps rubbish like this is the best case against censorship because it proves that violent content alone has little effect on viewers. Hills II throws everything at you that an 18 rating will allow and still it's less upsetting than Jurassic Park (the bit with the raptor and Samuel L Jackson's arm puts everything in this film to shame). Even the rape by a mutant fails to raise an eyebrow. They did that in Hills Have Eyes I.