"Award-winning writer/director Wes Craven - 'the John Ford of Horror' - repeats the success of The Hills Have Eyes with this gripping follow up.
Ignoring the warnings of a survivor of the earlier gruesome ordeal, a group of youngsters set out to to take the desert road again. When their bus runs short of petrol and they are stranded in the middle of nowhere, the crazed mutants reappear, their blood lust unabated.
In the lethal duel that ensues, the lucky ones die first. Until, finally, an injured man and a blind girl are left to face the terrible Reaper - alone."
In 1996 Wes Craven found new fame and fortune by paying homage to the slasher genre of yesteryear, something he more or less helped initiate with films like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1973). That film he directed was SCREAM (as if you hadn’t known!), and it, somewhat ironically, unleashed a whole new avalanche of cheap and not so cheap rip-offs onto an unsuspecting public. What’s even more ironic is the fact that Craven – who is often looked upon as one of the founding fathers of the ‘modern’ horror film – rode the coattails of the early 80’s slasher trend himself with this sequel to his 1977 classic THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Gone are the “redeeming” social value and twisted perspectives on modern civilization; for this, my friends, is a slasher film of the cheesiest kind!
THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 kicks off like any self-respecting sequel would: with flashbacks to the original. In this case it’s to the climax of that film, with young Bobby Carter (Robert Houston) and his sis doing away with the machete-wielding daddy of the cannibal clan. It turns out this is all being recounted by a now older but still clearly traumatized Bobby, who’s talking to a dorky looking shrink with oversized glasses. Bobby is worried because the next day he and his dirt bike team are heading off to the desert for an annual competition, where he plans on testing out his new “Super Formula” gas.
And who are these dirt bikers you ask? Well it’s 1985, so it’s no surprise (at least not to me!) when the teens burst onto the screen with their frilly legwarmers, leg-tight jeans and spike-studded disco headbands! They’re all gearing up for the big trip, especially Roy (Kevin Spirtas aka Kevin Blair) and his blind girlfriend Cass (Tamara Stafford) who, when she starts to get all worried after hearing the stories of the former cannibal clan from the original, is asked by one of the kids, “You feeling psychic today, you know like you sometimes do?” Is that foreshadowing or just really nonsensical scriptwriting? Who knows, her 'psychic powers' are never referred to again during the rest of the movie!
Things go according to plan, at least for the most part. Bobby chickens out at the last minute forcing gal-pal Rachel (Janus Blythe) to take his place as supervisor on the trip. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse once the kids actually hit the road; realizing they forgot to set their clocks back for daylight savings time (doh!), they decide to take a shortcut through an old desert path. “So what’s the big deal about taking a little shortcut anyway?” one of them reasons, clearly not long for this world!
To make matters even worse, they get lost because one of them was reading the map upside-down (I’m serious) – leading to some more risible dialogue as the teens begin to panic (“We’re not gonna be human French-fries or something!”). Hitting a bump in a road, their gas tank begins to leak and their bus stalls. One of them, Foster – a jivin’ black kid – manages to patch it up with bubble gum and they hightail it out to a deserted old silver mine.
Of course, anyone who’s seen the original – or any slasher movie for that matter – won’t be surprised at what happens next. One by one, or in small groups, the dirt bikers split up and search the grounds. And of course it won’t come as a surprise when it’s revealed that the silver mine isn’t deserted at all; Pluto (Michael Berryman), the bald cannibal freak who nearly had his throat torn out by a dog in part 1, has taken to stalking the grounds with his sharpened dagger hanging by his side. He confronts Rachel in a deserted warehouse where she literally kicks the shit out of him, before hotfooting it back to the desert when the other kids hear her screams.
Taking the kids aside, Rachel reveals herself as Ruby, the cannibal girl from part 1 who helped the Carters defeat Berryman and his cronies. She’s met with sarcastic response (“Rachel, you haven’t been using any, you know, controlled substances lately have you?”) from all of them except Cass; when Berryman makes off with one of their dirt bikes the group begins to suspect that (just maybe) they might be in a little danger (like, duh). Still, this gang’s not gonna’ let any cannibal spoil their time! Soon night falls and off they go, all by their lonesome to have sex, play pranks on one another and take showers – with nary a nod to the fact that two of their friends are missing and, well, there’s a freakin’ cannibal on the loose! Let’s face it: they deserve to die!
THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 Hmmm . . . well, to put it bluntly, is trash. It’s probably Wes Craven’s worst made film; in fact, it’s probably one of the most monumentally stupid films of its kind. And you know what? I love it. I love every Goddamn cheesy moment of it. Sure, it’s nothing really new, and those going into this expecting the same caliber as the original will be reeling twenty minutes in, but there’s plenty to seek your teeth into here. What other slasher movie has, not in any particular order: a mad dash through the desert on dirt bikes with Berryman, complete with football helmet on his head, shouting inanities and looking like a Loony Tune come to life; a giggling, bearded cannibal called “Reaper” who makes his presence known by shaking the nearest branch and growling like a rabid St. Bernard, and an inexplicable scene where the team’s friendly pooch has a vision to the events of the original?!!
Another thing the film really benefits from is a likeable, and surprisingly capable, central cast. Blair and Stafford make appealing leads and the supporting cast manages to bring life to their fairly one-dimensional roles via lots of charm and charisma. My favorite of the bunch is definitely the returning Janus Blythe, who adds a (very light!) layer of depth to the proceedings. It’s nice to know that even though this was sort of a hack job Craven still had the good sense to justify this sequel. Blythe’s return to the desert home where she grew up and her adaptation to her natural surroundings make for very compelling viewing indeed, no matter how corny the proceedings are. Why Blythe never really made it “big” as a true scream queen is beyond me; her performance here, as well as in the ’77 original and Tobe Hooper’s cult classic EATEN ALIVE (1976) are proof if proof were needed that she deserves that status. In fact, the film’s only real fault is that it leaves her character’s ultimate fate totally up in the air. Oh, and on a side note, be on the lookout for a young Penny Johnson, aka the President’s wife on the hit Fox drama series “24”; not only does she pop her top early on and get it in the film’s bloodiest, phoniest death scene, but she also sports one of the ugliest headbands ever committed to early 80’s slasher celluloid – and anyone who has had the (dis)pleasure of seeing Janet Julian’s in HUMONGOUS (1981) knows it faces stiff competition!
Now, as I mentioned above, Craven doesn’t look upon this film as anything more than a simple paycheck. He, at the time, was apparently quoted as saying that he would have done “Godzilla in Paris” if he had to, he was so desperate for money. It’s obvious that THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 was a patch job; get a bunch of the actors from the original film, add a sliver of plot clearly inspired by the first three FRIDAY THE 13TH films and pad it out with footage from part 1 – and voila! You’ve got a sequel. To add to this theory, eagle-eyed, er, listeners will note that the music in this film is made up of familiar riffs from the FRIDAY THE 13TH films as well as Craven’s earlier SWAMP THING (1982). In fact, the Friday score is so prominent here – the only thing that’s missing is the familiar “Ha ha ch ch” – I half expected to see Betsy Palmer waddle in with her machete mumbling “Kill her mommy, kill heeerrrrr”. Now THAT would have been fun! (Funny enough, this film also served as the starting point for Blair as well as Kane Hodder, serving here as a stunt double; both of whom would go on to star in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD).
Against all odds, the last half-hour of THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 actually succeeds in delivering a few palpable thrills. The obligatory showdown is sort of like WAIT UNTIL DARK (1968) meets DEATH VALLEY (1982), with the blind Cass stumbling around the darkened silver mine (liberally strewn with the bodies of her friends, natch) as the machete-wielding Reaper stalks after her. Capped off with another fiery climax (what early 80’s rural slasher would be without one?!), THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 ain’t no great shakes but it’s plenty of fun if you go into it with a sense of humor.
female:3 / male:5
1) Male crushed by boulder and found dismembered
2) Male shot through chest cavity with spear bolt
3) Male killed with hatchet (off-screen)
4) Female bearhugged to death
5) Female throat cut with machete
6) Female brained on rock – killed? ( * )
7) Male falls to his death from cliff top
8) Male set on fire and falls down mine shaft
[ * Spoiler: I've been dipping into the tie-in novel adaptation
of the sequel to check on Rachel/Ruby's true fate, and, well, it ain't good
... : "Rachel cried out with alarm as she tumbled backward into a deep
pit which had opened up beneath her. ... She braced herself for a hard landing.
But instead of a single thumping fall she felt a whole series of stabbing pains
... The points of the stakes bit deep into her body, as they gouged their torturous
paths right through her flesh and then out again, the gory tips ripping apart
the skin on the other side. ... And there was nothing she could do but scream
and and scream and scream." (Justin).]