The Hills Have Eyes 2

The Hills Have Eyes 2

**1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

The Hills Have Eyes 2 may be set only two years (and made one year) after half the Carter clan was slaughtered by desert cannibals in Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur's The Hills Have Eyes (2006), but given that the latter was itself a reimagining of a much-loved Wes Craven flick made some three decades earlier, and given that Craven's original had already spawned a sequel (The Hills Have Eyes Part II) in 1985, this all-new sequel comes with a complicated and incestuous pedigree.

This time round Craven has returned to pen the script, but in recognition of the mutations required to adapt his old ideas for a younger audience, he has turned to his own son Jonathan as co-writer, and handed the helm to newbie director Martin Weisz, who cut his teeth on the controversial (if bland) true-life cannibal pic Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story (2006). There is even a theme of parenthood running through the film as though to underscore the shift in generations. And yet, like the deformed baby born in the film's opening sequence, The Hills Have Eyes 2 looks destined to have a very short life-span, as big daddy Craven's creative juices deteriorate with each passing year (just think of his most recent horror monstrosity Cursed, or the utterly conventional thriller Red Eye).

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A unit of young National Guard trainees is sent on a routine mission to deliver equipment to military scientists in the top-secret desert area known as Sector 16. The research camp appears to have been abandoned, but someone or something is watching from the rocky hills above. As the group uncovers evidence of a brutal massacre, they come under attack from an all-male family of mutants intent on grabbing the women for their beds and the men for their pot. Trapped in the cliffs and low on ammunition, the survivors have little choice but to enter the system of caves and mines that may be their only way back down - but which are also home to the monstrous family.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 is a bog-standard pick-'em-off-one-by-one splatterfest. While the desert scenery is pretty enough, and the red stuff flows in a pleasing torrent of gougings, eviscerations and bone-crushing mayhem, a complete lack of sophistication in dialogue or characterisation ensures that, viewed as anything other than a quick cash-in on last year's gleefully over-the-top remake, the film is pretty worthless.

All this might be put down to tradition - after all, Craven's original 1977 film is one of the most overrated shockers in horror history, while its original sequel, complete with a risible flashback from a dog's point of view, was generally deemed a disaster even at the time of its 1985 release. Still, there is so little to Craven's latest film that it is hard to believe it comes from the legend behind such savvy horror as The People Under the Stairs, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, and Scream. Craven is rightly famous for rejuvenating an entire genre with his healthy injection of irony, but here irony seems to have been entirely replaced with bucketloads of vicious gore.

Nothing wrong with blood, of course, but discerning horror fans also like a bit of meat on the bone - whereas the only substance to be found here is the heavily laboured allegorisation of the US experience in the Middle East, so in-your-face that it barely qualifies as subtext at all. In case we do not recognise Craven's National Guardsmen and Guardswomen as recruits for Afghanistan, an early scene shows them messing up a training exercise in a mock-up, (literally) sign-posted Kandahar - while Craven's troglodytes clearly stand in for al Qaida 'bogeymen' holed up in the caves of Tora Bora.

Yet what exactly do we learn from all this? It comes as no surprise that the US military is composed largely of inexperienced, culturally diverse people, some of whom are not exactly posterboys for, let alone supporters of, Bush's policy. Yet one has to question the wisdom of simply demonising America's current enemy as sub-human cannibal rapists. The only hint of subtlety in this representation is the suggestion that these mutants, though a genuine threat to Americans, were also (secretly) created by them during the Cold War. Otherwise, the bloody battle between fresh-faced soldiers and murderous monsters is an over-literal War on Terror - with even the liberal-minded Napoleon (Michael McMillian) fast converting to the more bellicose ways of his colleagues.

The result is a film as bloodily pointless as the current conflict in Iraq. And worst of all, it leaves at least two routes open for a third instalment in this already over-trodden franchise – although it is another question whether by then the hills will still have many viewers' eyes…

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2007
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A group of young National Guard trainees run afoul of rural cannibals.
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