Directed by: Martin Weisz
Premise: A sequel to the 2006 remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 film. A group of National Guard trainees are sent on an impromptu rescue mission when scientists disappear in a remote desert army base. The trainees find themselves in a struggle to survive when they are attacked by mutants.
What Works: The Hills Have Eyes II is a nasty horror film and that is to the film’s benefit. It does not soften the violence or the gore and that gives the story a sense of gravity. The picture takes a harder action approach and its decision to center the film around a group of soldiers borrows an angle that worked well in films like Predator and Aliens. It also avoids repeating the story of the first film by providing new characters and new situations.
What Doesn’t: The Hills Have Eyes II exacerbates the flaws of the 2006 film. The remake had copious amounts of gore, but was strained to create an ongoing sense of tension or terror. This film is even more wanton for scares, even in its jump moments. Also like the remake, Hills II is missing what made the original such an effective and disturbing film: characterization of the people in the hills. That ingredient is central to the terror of the original story, as villains were compared and contrasted with the suburban family of the first film and this gave a sense of who and what was out there. While conventional wisdom tells us not to show the monsters, storytellers do need to define the threat to our protagonists and this film does not do that. Where both versions of the first film did have some effective characterization of the human family, Hills II lacks characterization of the soldiers, and they come off mostly as stock war clichés and few have any traits that make them stand out. The film also suffers from repeating a lot of the same themes from the previous picture but does not take them to the next level. Instead, Hills II just effortlessly repeats what has already been said and does not do it nearly as well.
Bottom Line: The Hills Have Eyes II is a disappointment. The film is better than The Hills Have Eyes Part II from 1985, the direct sequel to Craven’s original film, but that is not saying much. This Hills II lacks purpose, creativity, and even scares.
Episode: #134 (March 25, 2007)