Pop quiz, hotshot; when was the last time Wes Craven wrote a really good horror movie? While I like “The People Under the Stairs” and “Shocker” is a stupid hoot, neither of those films really qualify as really good, do they? Nope. For the last really good Wes Craven horror script one would have to go all the way back to 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Since then, Craven’s either made mediocre-to-bad films based on his own scripts or worked from someone else’s material. So when word came that Wes Craven and his son Jonathan (whose soul credit is the mind-blowingly bad “The Outpost” aka; “Mindripper”) would be scripting the follow-up to last year’s excellent “The Hills Have Eyes” remake, I was literally drained of all enthusiasm for the project.
After seeing the film, I feel both vindicated and completely ripped off, and I wanted my $13.50 back (I got a large popcorn). Now that it's come home to DVD, in a slightly gorier and slimier unrated version, has my opinion softened some?
After the events of the first film, we learn that the military have been covertly searching for the mutants that terrorized the Carter family in what is now known as Sector 16. While all of these highly trained soldiers scour the desert, a group of ragtag (i.e.; grossly incompetent) recruits are finishing up a training exercise smack dab in the area where the muties have congregated. From here on, Craven and Son stick to the established Hills formula, in which people wander off alone and die, leading others to wander off in slightly larger groups to die, and so on. Along the way we are treated to ludicrous amounts of gore, an unnecessarily drawn out rape scene, and frivolous anti-war sentiment that is almost an insult to the anti-war movement in how simply and obviously it is conveyed.
It’s a rare thing for a filmmaker to get a second chance to tell their own story. Craven’s original Hills sequel is amongst the silliest horror flicks ever (c’mon, folks. A German Shepard having flashbacks?), but somehow the Craven clan has managed to make an even sillier film, made worse by the fact that it lacks any of the humor or somewhat endearing cheapness of the original sequel. What this Hills has to offer is little more than a series of convoluted plot devices with which to introduce a bunch of silly looking new mutants (one that looks like he's made of stone, another who's a ringer for Sloth from The Goonies), a squad of Abercrombie and Fitch models dressed up in fatigues, and an excessive amount of gore used in hopes that viewers will be too busy grimacing to notice that there’s nary a story in sight.
The unrated DVD from Fox features too many extra goodies for a horrible film like this, with deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a funny gag reel, and a quartet of entertaining featurettes, including a "Mutant Attacks" featurette; "Birth of a Graphic Novel" featurette; "Exploring the Hills: The making of the Hills Have Eyes 2", and Fox movie channel presents: Life After Film School
I’d like to say The Hills Have Eyes 2 was all style over substance, but it has no style; just flat direction, terrible performances, and a laughably bad script. The promotional campaign goes out of its way to say how critics complained that Aja’s film was too bloody and too controversial, and promised that this new film would push the envelope even further. The result is a movie that is so focused on gore and “controversial” scenes that it forsakes everything else that makes a movie worth watching in the first place.