Hills Have Eyes II, The (United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The Hills Have Eyes II is a sequel to a remake but not a remake of a sequel. Curiously, Horrormeister Wes Craven has been involved in all four movies featuring the words "hills" and "eyes" in the title. He wrote and directed the 1977 original and its 1985 sequel. He produced the 2006 remake and now he has added writer/producer credits for this movie to his resume. However, whatever optimism I may have had for the movie considering Craven's involvement evaporated quickly once in the theater. Whatever contribution Craven made to the screenplay must have occurred in the middle of the night while he was blindfolded. The hills might have eyes but this is one of those times I wish I didn't; then I could have been spared the headache and boredom inducing experience of sitting through this.

If the purpose of a horror film is to deliver violence and gore, The Hills Have Eyes II provides those elements aplenty. There is carnage and viscera to go along with a particularly disturbing (and graphic) birth scene and an equally shocking (and unnecessary) rape. However, if the purpose of a horror film is to frighten and unsettle, The Hills Have Eyes II fails. The movie has no atmosphere to speak of and it is abominably ineffective when it comes to generating tension or suspense. This is yet another movie where audience members can play the "fun" game of figuring out in what order the cardboard characters will get picked off and how many of them will survive to see the end credits.

The Hills Have Eyes II sends a National Guard unit on a training mission into "Area 16" in the New Mexico desert. (They would have been in better shape had they been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.) The characters all have names but since they're mostly played by unknowns, it's probably most instructive to refer to them by their defining characteristics: the tough black sergeant (Flex Alexander), the peacenick (Michael McMillan), the gung-ho lothario (Reshad Strick), the inept big guy (Eric Edelstein), the two women (Jessica Stroup, Daniella Alonso), the perfect soldier (Lee Thompson Young), the coward (Ben Crowley), and the shoot-before-thinking hothead (Jacob Vargas – hey, I've heard of him!). These guys climb a mountain, lose a few of their members to the mutants who live in the area, get stuck up there when their ropes are stolen, then spend the rest of the movie wandering around in disused mines.

The Descent proved that it's possible to create a taught horror movie in underground passageways. All it requires is a little ingenuity and a strong sense of atmosphere. The Hills Have Eyes II illustrates that it's possible to utilize a similar premise to dismal effect. Once the characters get underground, the movie turns into a bore. There's no gnawing sense of claustrophobia. There's no growing feeling of menace. There's just resignation that we're going to have to spend an hour with these uninteresting characters as they stumble around looking for daylight. Sure, there are occasional appearances by adult mutant ninja cannibals, but these guys aren't much fun. Then there are the necessary contrivances demanded to even the odds as the soldiers all run out of ammo at the same time. Fix bayonets!

The creature work in The Hills Have Eyes II is bad enough to be called amateurish. It looks like the makeup department took some big actors and stuck colored marshmallows all over their bodies. Rather than appearing frightening, they look silly. They would probably be more effective if their exposure to the camera was limited but, unlike the rubber shark in Jaws, they're shown too often in good light. The only horrific sight is that of the pregnant woman during the opening sequence but the overall effect is more repellant than frightening.

The Hills Have Eyes II is made for the undiscriminating horror "fan" - someone who's looking for a fix of blood and gore without much caring what goes along with it. Sadly, this has become the state of the genre in the '90s and it's an indication of how bad things have gotten when respected icons like Wes Craven have fallen prey to the pitfalls of fast money and shoddy production values. After this disgrace, it's time to shut the hills' eyes for good.

Hills Have Eyes II, The (United States, 2007)

Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2007-03-23
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1