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The Hills Have Eyes II (2007)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/17/2007

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/14/2007

I really hate to use the word jaded, but that's probably the most appropriate term to describe me. I've been a horror movie fan for as long as I can remember, and, well, it's take a lot for a scary film to get my attention these days. And that's exactly what happened with the 2006 remake The Hills Have Eyes. I'm an admirer of what Wes Craven was able to do on a shoestring budget with the original film, and having been underwhelmed by director Alexandre Aja's High Tension, I didn't expect much from the remake. As it turns out, the movie was one of the most brutal, shocking, and suspenseful films which I'd seen in years, and I came away both breathless and impressed. Now, just a year later, a sequel to the remake emerges. Will The Hills Have Eyes 2 be equally impressive?

The Hills Have Eyes 2 opens with text which reminds us of the events from the first film and then informs us that the U.S. military has investigated the area and is now installing infrared sensors. We then see the technicians at work installing the devices. The film then cuts to a military training exercise where we observe a group of National Guardsmen training. Once they are finished (and criticized by their Sergeant), the group is informed that they will be delivering supplies to Sector 16 -- the area where the events of the first film occurred.

Upon arriving at Sector 16, they find the camp to be deserted and the rocky hills make radio use nearly impossible. The group thinks that they see someone on the cliffs and decide to investigate. That's when the mutants attack and begin to pick off the squadron one by one. What will happen when a group of National Guard recruits square off against insane cannibalistic mutants?

The main focus of Wes Craven's original film and Alexandre Aja's remake is quite simple -- we see a common American family pushed to their limits and forced to resort to savage violence in order to survive. This is a powerful idea and the graphic nature of Aja's film really drives the point home as the family eventually reaches the level of the mutants when to come to violent acts. Another important part of the story is that the mutants are a family as well, with distinct members, so, as many critics have pointed out, we have the "nuclear family" versus the "Nuclear family".

The screenplay for The Hills Have Eyes 2 was written by Wes Craven and his son Jonathan. They have wisely decided to avoid a rehash of the first film and have opted to not have another vacationing family square off against the mutants (Or, a group of motorcycle racers, as you Craven fans will note). Instead, they have brought in a group soldiers to face the monsters. Looking at this from a logical standpoint, this approach makes perfect sense. If an event like this one occurred on military land, soldiers would be there to ensure that it didn't happen again. Viva la logic!

But, while logic is doing its victory dance, the story is suffering and everything which made the remake of the original great is not to be found here. The two elements which are missed the most are characterization and pacing. As noted above, The Hills Have Eyes showed two families facing one another. In that film, we got to know the "normal" family very well, and as the film progressed, each of the mutants became recognizable. But, in this sequel, nearly all of the characters are interchangeable. There are two female soldiers, one of whom has a child, and one of the male soldiers is opposed to war, but other than that, they all blend together. It's even worse for the mutants, who take anonymity to a new level. Thus, there is no one to which the audience can connect amongst the soldiers and the mutants are simply unseen monsters.

There's no doubt that Aja's film was incredibly violent and disturbing, but he presented this to the audience in small bursts, only allowing the finale to get completely out of control. Again, these scenes were intercut with scenes where we got to know the characters, and thus, the violence had more of an impact. The Hills Have Eyes 2 opens with an incredibly gross and disturbing scene, as if to say, "I'm going to be far bloodier than that first movie!" The problem is that the audience is then either completely repulsed or completely numbed by the first minutes of the film. Actually, the rest of the film is somewhat tame when compared to The Hills Have Eyes. However, director Martin Weisz has no touch for suspense, and so, the movie is just one scene after another of the soldiers walking over rocky hills or through mines.

On one of the extra features contained on The Hills Have Eyes 2 DVD, Wes Craven explains that they wanted to avoid making Aliens. Too bad, because that's exactly what you did. But, this is an Earth-bound version of that film which contains no suspense and poorly-drawn characters. I knew that The Hills Have Eyes 2 couldn't live up to the remake of the original, but I was at least hoping that it would be good. Instead, it's a decidedly pointless film, which contains some gory scenes, but no shocks or scares.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 comes out of the cave and onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fairly good, as it's pretty sharp and clear. For a film which features numerous shots of the bright, sunlit desert, the image is nicely free from grain or defects from the source material. But, these shots do show some flickering and video noise. The dark scenes maintained a good brightness. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While this is a perfectly serviceable track, there weren't as many surround sound and subwoofer effects as I'd hoped. The calls and movements of the mutants play well in the rear speakers, but it doesn't create the same impact that the first film had.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 has come to DVD in two separate releases, R-rated and Unrated. While the running times are very similar, the R-rated DVD contains both the full-frame and widescreen versions, while the Unrated widescreen DVD has more extra features. The DVD sports four DELETED SCENES, which run about three minutes. There's nothing substantial here, but the last one contains one gross shot. The ALTERNATE ENDING (1 minute) is only slightly different from the present ending. The DVD has a 4-minute GAG REEL. In "Mutant Attacks" (10 minutes), the cast and crew discuss the various creatures in the film and how they are portrayed. The comic book prequel "The Hills Have Eyes: The Beginning" is analyzed in "Birth of a Graphic Novel" (13 minutes). "Exploring the Hills: The Making of The Hills Have Eyes 2" (13 minutes) contains a nice amount of on-set footage and comments from cast and crew talking about the script, the actors, the locations, and the stunts. Finally, Craven talks to three film school students about filmmaking in "Life After Film School with Wes Craven" (10 minutes).

On October 23, 2007, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brought The Hills Have Eyes 2 to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is 1080p HD AVC. The image here looks spectacular. If you've ever seen a move set in the desert, then you know that the bright, barren landscapes can make film grain very obvious. There is no visible grain here and there are no defects from the source material. The image is very sharp and that sharpness results in a depth that gives some shots a 3-D look. The color pattern here remains mainly in the beige and browns, but the few instances of color look fine and the darker scenes are never too dark. The disc has a DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio track which runs at 1.5 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio is solid, with excellent stereo separation. The surround and subwoofer effects are slightly above average, but the gunshots don't pack much of a punch. The extras here are identical to those found on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long