Any loyal reader of Filmsnobs (and I think there should be five of you left) knows that I am a sucker for the socially-conscience horror film. There are scary movies but scary movies that add scary current events to the subtext are even better. So, despite my inclination to not spend money on a sequel to a remake that was far inferior to the original, I donít know why I expected so much from The Hills Have Eyes II save for Wes Cravenís name as a co-screenwriter. Craven did the original 1977 film and the writer-director took a dysfunctional ďnuclearĒ family and put them at the mercy of a demented family infected with nuclear radiation. Craven was able to contrast both of these families to show that, no matter what the ďbad guysĒ were capable of, they were just as victimized as the Carters. It may have been unpleasant and nasty, but the original had depth and build that Alexandre Aja who simply cannot or will not grasp.
Cravenís presence in the credits was not the only thing that gave me hope for a superior film. The film is about a group of National Guard trainees who get led into a remote, desert area and find that were misled about their mission as they become under siege from some very nasty, very violent natures suffering from the ravages of war, i.e. nuclear testing. Doesnít this sound ripe for contemporaneous pontificating? Certainly so, but thereís much ado about nothing in the end product of the film. The men and women of the Guard are nothing more than mutant bait waiting their turn for a grisly, inhumane death who could have easily been a group of horny teenagers or naive backpackers in any other slasher film. Also gone is the sense of complexity with the mutants from the original. Now, please do not get me wrong: I never rooted for the creatures or people or mutants or whatever you want to call them. But here, the mutants are nothing more than murderers and rapists who, despite the presentation of limited intelligence, seem to find very elaborate and clever ways of killing their victims. Once again, this is a horror film more interested in its violence rather than the effects of its violence. That certainly seems more interesting to me but, once the filmís opening sequence finishes, I knew The Hills Have Eyes 2 didnít have anything like that on its mind. (This sequence, showing why the mutants donít kill female victims until they breed, might be one of the most unpleasant scenes in any mainstream film Iíve ever seen. The moment certainly gives Hostel a run for its money.) That is the biggest complaint of most recent horror films: They see their stories as nothing more than chic aesthetic; a showcase for CGI and makeup effects rather than actually developing anything interesting therein for the audience to ponder.
I once wrote that Craven was one of my favorite filmmakers but shimes pointed out that I was only looking at his good work rather than the whole body. Now that he seems to be making good cash in writing remakes of better films (in the case of last summerís Pulse, neither it or the original were worth much bothering), it even seems that Craven himself has given up on his career. With The Hills Have Eyes 2, it seems that there is one bright spot: He canít get any lower.
As a note: I donít want there to be any confusion with this. While the original The Hills Have Eyes spawned a sequel, this film is not a remake of the 1985 sequel. The original sequel was a loose plot of a group of Hellís Angels driving through the same area as the Carterís from the 1977 film. Craven mainly used this plot as filler so he could recycle scenes from the original heíd initially edited. The 1985 film is just as bad as this current sequel but I guess, if thereís any redeeming value to this, itís nice to know Craven bothered to come up with a new story. When Scream was released, Craven admitted that the only reason he directed the 1985 sequel was because A Nightmare on Elm Street had not been released and he needed the money. I have no doubt the intentions are just as pure now.