Are there any fates worse than having to endure an absurd horror flick that completely skimps on suspense and ignores the importance of a coherent plot? I highly doubt it. Last year, the updated version of The Hills Have Eyes failed to encapsulate the terror of Wes Craven’s 1977 classic, but the film performed well enough to push the producers at Fox Atomic to green-light a sequel. Truth be told, the result is nothing short of a dreadful glorification of violence and torture. Picking up a couple of years after the first film, The Hills Have Eyes 2 introduces us to a group of military rejects who are ordered to deliver supplies to Sector 16 in the New Mexico desert, an area once used by the U.S. government for nuclear testing. Shortly after their arrival in what looks like an abandoned campsite, the soldiers decide to track their missing comrades in the surrounding hills, home to a horde of ruthless mutants eager to butcher everyone who dares to trespass their territory.
Written carelessly by Wes Craven and his son Jonathan, and directed by Martin Weisz, whose cannibal tale Grimm Love was my absolute favorite at the 2006 edition of the Cannes Film Market, The Hills Have Eyes 2 follows a plot structure so primitive and predictable, it makes you want to never set foot in a movie theatre ever again. The movie kicks off with nine candidates, and we get to watch them die one by one as they tiptoe through some old mines in the hopes of finding a way down the hills. I know that’s not necessarily original or innovative, but it gets worse. The degree of violence rises with the number of victims, and culminates in a number of torture scenes that are mostly too disgusting to watch. I’m not talking about decapitations and severed body parts, but rather about despicable rape scenes.
For most of the 90-minute running time, the film totally relies on well-intentioned “boo” moments, most of which fall flat. A character development is conspicuously absent, and frankly, almost every time the actors open their mouth, they utter either a stupidity or the F-bomb. Consequently, since the audience never gets a real chance to care about any of these characters, there’s a big chance it starts sympathizing with the monsters and cheer every time they finish off one of their victims.
Admittedly, The Hills Have Eyes 2 feels like a tiring drag that picks up some pace and efficiency during the final minutes, when the movie approaches its climax and the action tightens. But nail-biting moments are scarce, and there is nothing compelling to go look for on these hills. If you are nonetheless dying for a scary ride through some somber caves, watch The Descent instead. I feel sorry for saying this, but the bonus material on the DVD is at times more engaging than the main feature itself. Strangely enough, the coolest aspect of this “Unrated” edition is the great cover art, but some of the special features are worth checking out too. A filmmaker’s commentary is missing, which in most cases, I would find rather disappointing. But this time I’ll be more lenient because I wouldn’t be able to sit through the movie a second time anyway.
The best and most informative extra on the disc is “Birth of a Graphic Novel,” a 12-minute featurette that offers a compelling insight into the production of the graphic novel The Hills Have Eyes: The Beginning, which serves as a prequel to the first movie and goes back to how it all began. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and art designer John Higgins closely examine every stage in the creation of the book, which is indeed a complex, long-lasting process. The featurette is especially engaging because it shows the artists in action and features intriguing interviews surrounding the project.
The special features section on the DVD also includes “Fox Movie Channel: Life After Film School with Wes Craven,” a 9-minute segment in which co-writer and producer Wes Craven is being interviewed by three film students. The questions they ask him are rather simple and general, but Craven gives honest and complete answers, revealing some interesting facts about the thematic, script and budget of The Hills Have Eyes 2. The interview might not help make the movie a better one, but it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re a film buff or at least a Wes Craven fan.
The bonus material on the disc also comprises four dead-boring deleted scenes and a mediocre alternate ending, which is not that different from the original. There’s also a 12-minute behind-the-scenes look, but it’s mostly repetitive and not very enlightening. The “Unrated” version of the movie is barely 30 seconds longer than the theatrical cut, so it’s impossible to detect what the filmmakers added to the final cut. My guess is they extended the rape scene and threw in some extra blood, but it’s hardly important anyway. We’ve seen better.
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