Make no mistake, The Hills Have Eyes 2 is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the mainstream horror genre. As a sequel to last year’s remake, it is the stuff direct-to-video sequels are made of, except that you pay $10 to see it in the theaters. Although this sequel has enough common sense not to offer up a baby-at-gunpoint gang rape scene as its center piece, it comes close. Predictably it’s an empty, grotesque glorification of torture and rape.
For whatever reason, Army scientists are setting up a security system in Sector 16, the infamous home of mutants. Of course, the scientists are disposed of within a matter of minutes and a group of National Guard trainees soon enter the fray. Being green under the gills, the trainees are no match for the handicapped mutants and are picked off one by one. With dialogue that was apparently written by a 12-year old, there is not a single relatable character in the film; not one has our sympathies, which makes it hard for first-time director Martin Weiz to create any suspense.
To make matters even worse, screenwriters Jonathan and Wes Craven attempt to inject commentary on the Iraq war, but not through themes or implications – through dialogue calling the president a liar and soldiers yelling “America’s No. 1,” while firing at a middle-eastern combatant. The result is a laughable, ignorant take on a complicated situation. It’s nearly as insulting as the hyped up violence.
Going into The Hills Have Eyes 2, you would think that the on-screen events would be the catalyst for terror but surprisingly, the most of the horror was inspired by the audience’s reaction to the movie. In a nearly-sold out theater, you could feel the anticipation for the next gruesome murder. Instead of fearing for the lives of the protagonists, the audience cheered for the mutants’ violence. As the body count rose, the audience became more pleased with the movie. This excitement for brutality escalated to the point where there were actually several audible laughs during a brutal rape scene.
Have we really desensitized ourselves to the point where we get our rocks off on Hollywood snuff films? Has the horror genre really (de)evolved to the point where cinematic themes are replaced with graphic torture and rape? It’s sickening that we’ve let this sub-genre of graphic exploitation swell to the point where studio sub-divisions like Fox Atomic are releasing a new snuff film every three months. Yet, the reason we have movies like this is because every weekend, we go to the theater, pay our money and support them. We are sending a clear message to the mass media that soulless violence and brutality (especially against women) are the things we love to watch.
While certainly the filmmakers are partly to blame, as they are willingly creating these cinematic travesties, the movie-going public takes up the rest of the slack. If we stop going to see every crappy new horror movie and are more selective in our picks, perhaps we can send a new message to the Hollywood big wigs. We can tell them that we value thematic substance over violence for the sake of violence. After all, there’s nothing more satisfying than a creative horror-movie kill - when there is enough meaning behind it to truly scare us. On the other hand, if you find torture and rape funny, then be sure to buy a ticket for The Hills Have Eyes 2.