Blu-Ray Review: The Hills Have Eyes 2
To the excitement and glee of absolutely no one other than die-hard Wes Craven completists, The Hills Have Eyes 2, Craven’s belated follow-up to his original 1977 isolationist horror classic, is now available on Blu-ray from Horizon Movies. Though derivative of Tobe Hooper’s earlier low-budget success The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original Hills Have Eyes has gained respect and admiration from genre fans over the years for its harrowing treatment of a Midwestern family stranded in the desert and beset by a clan of cave-dwelling, incestuous cannibals. Hills Have Eyes 2 is unfortunately just as notoriously abhorred as a lackadaisical and opportunistic cash-grab, hastily released in the wake of Craven’s bigger-budgeted and more commercially successful 1984 slasher film, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Following the tragic events of the first movie, surviving brother Bobby (Robert Houston), still wrestling with personal demons in the wake of the massacre, has invented a new motorcycle super-fuel, which he decides to promote – for some reason – by staging a motorcycle race in the middle of the exact same desert where 75% of his family was brutally terrorized and murdered eight years ago. Bobby chickens out at the last minute and sends a busload of his friends and associates into the desert without him, where they immediately get lost and run out of gas. Along for the excursion are Ruby (Janus Blythe), who is now a civilized, pants-wearing normal human being living under an assumed identity, and Beast the German shepherd, who, in this movie, gets to indulge in his very own wavy-screened expository flashback sequence. Once stranded, the would-be day-trippers run afoul of the final remaining dregs of the marauding cannibal hoards, which they’re forced to vanquish using only their sparkling wits and sporty Yamahas.
Hills Have Eyes 2 was produced in 1985, almost eight years after Craven’s original film, but less than one year after A Nightmare on Elm Street hit the market. It was written and produced by Craven, but has since been disowned publicly by him in recognition of how totally unwatchable it is. The screenplay is lazily written and full of plot holes, which is telling for a movie with such a simple and straightforward premise, and the apathetic mismanagement of the film’s shoestring budget is evident in pretty much every scene – most eyebrow-raisingly, in the copious gratuitous action sequences involving Yamaha motorcycles, Yamaha clothes, Yamaha sporting accessories, and other assorted Yamaha paraphernalia. There’s even a scene where iconic character actor Michael Berryman, as deformed cannibal menace Pluto, is captured at knife-point and forced to push a Yamaha motorcycle in front of him through the desert by a triumphant, Yamaha-wearing male protagonist.
Reduced to a barrel-scraping, generic teen slasher, Hills Have Eyes 2 is not even a particularly solid or entertaining one, with almost a full hour of meandering set-up followed by roughly 40 minutes of murkily-shot, confusingly-edited murder sequences, capped with an underwhelming climax. Blythe’s character doesn’t even get her own subplot, despite her character’s unique personal history and connection to the antagonists, and Berryman, likewise, barely even gets any screen time.
To their credit, Horizon does what they can with the presentation, including a gallery of original VHS box cover artwork for some of the more obscure overseas releases of the film, and some apologetically tacked-on trailers for other, no-doubt superior releases. Nevertheless, Craven’s toothless sequel is worthy of collectors and completists only. Its half-baked treatment isn’t just a callous insult to the original, it’s also plodding, technically inferior, disorganized, and ultimately forgettable.