The Hills Have Eyes II
Directed by Martin Weisz. Starring Michael McMillian, Jessica Stroup, Daniella Alonso, Jacob Vargas, Lee Thompson Young, Ben Crowley, Eric Edelstein, Flex Alexander, Reshad Strik. (2007, R, 89 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 30, 2007
This sequel to last year’s remake of the 1977 horror classic The Hills Have Eyes is as witless and simpleminded as the irradiated humanoids that serve as the franchise’s bad guys. When, early on, in one of the movie’s only good scares, a soldier comes running out of a portable latrine hollering about someone coming up out of the “shitter,” the remark might be interpreted as some kind of meta-comment about the events to unfold. For The Hills Have Eyes II is indeed a barrage of refuse and sludge. Whereas last year’s remake by Alexandre Aja was stylish and cunning, despite being unnecessary, this new sequel by the commercial and video director Weisz is merely a murky body-count movie that pits the hateful mutants against a group of unlikable humans. The plot gets going as a small unit of inept National Guard reserves makes a routine delivery of supplies to the super-secret Sector 16 in the Army's Yuma Flats base in New Mexico. (The film's opening sequence – a mock training exercise in Kandahar – demonstrates how the entire group would have died during a real assault. Again, is this is some kind of comment about the state of our troops' readiness?) Once there, the soldiers find it deserted, and, in true horror-movie fashion, proceed to make one bad decision after another. They follow the mutants up into the hills and down into the old mining tunnels that snake through the mountains; they leave their guns behind when they go off to look at something or wander off solo as though there might be "Fresh Meat" signs displayed on their backs. The battles are mostly primitive: a foot to the groin, fingers in the eye sockets, rocks to the head, and so on. The details don't much matter because they are barely visible on the screen as the inadequate lighting in the tunnels and caves makes everything look dim and indistinct (which may actually be a boon to the rape sequence). It doesn't help that the human characters are undeveloped types (alpha males, cute women, a doubting Thomas) rather than personalities we learn to care about. Although series creator Wes Craven wrote this sequel's script with his son Jonathan, the film has little of that filmmaker's usual sass. If the film had an ounce of humor, however, it might be mistaken for another entry in another of Craven's lighthearted horror franchises: Scream.