DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

The Hills Have Eyes II



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</script></div>{/googleAds}Hollywood has long been under the reality of its studios being controlled by corporations, which, without being too cynical, means that the mainstream film industry is now dictated by the bottom line, and demographic trends. While it's fair to expect they make great efforts to appease their shareholders and make a profit for their companies, the unfortunate downside is rare events of risk taking. Niche markets usually don't mean much money, and The Hills Have Eyes 2 fits squarely within this category: a risky film with limited appeal that didn't light the box office on fire. That said, this sequel to the 2006 remake is a worthy entry, and at the very least a welcome example that sometimes companies (in this case Fox Atomic) will at least take that risk once in a while.

Written by Wes Craven and his son Jonathan, Hills 2 continues the story sometime after the first film's survivors fled the mutant-psycho filled nuclear wastelands of the New Mexico desert. In their stead comes a troupe of inexperienced National Guardsmen to provide the same kind of ‘lamb to the slaughter' gore-fest as the original (remake). There are elements in the writing to make one wish Craven himself might have picked up the bullhorn and ran visually with it, but being that he's been there before, not surprising that he didn't.

The story's structure is basically the same as Hills 1, with the exception of the grotesque/memorable opening scene, which may just keep your popcorn bucket full for the next hour or two. This is not a film packed with suspense, nor does it try to like its progenitor, you pay for cringe-worthy gore and that's exactly what it delivers. Unlike Hills 1 there is no effective time milking before the blood storm. Characterisation is limited to one-note wonder characters, and while again expecting too much from this type of film is missing the point, the dynamic of a family of victims in the first film (remake) made the carnage more horrific/effective. Hills 2 characters do nothing more than make you wonder in what blood-curdling manner they are going to bite it. The other bone of contention for some might be the portrayals of the National Guardsmen, who make the word ‘inexperienced' look like a compliment. The whole military bravado/fish out of water cliché and at times heavy-handed cynicism directed toward military conscience does the story no favors. But this film is one of excess, and on all counts it delivers that in spades. From inventive death scenes, over the top sets, and the rapid pace in which the gore unfolds, Hills 2 starts the ball with a splat and never lets up.

German director Martin Weisz follows the lead of Hills 1 Director Alexandre Aja fairly closely and to effective results. Missing from his film is the dense, oppressive Sepia colour palette, the aforementioned suspense, and a mastering of the effects (due to a dodgy cliff fall effect, and showing a little too much with light). His virtues into this arena far outweigh any missteps, and should he make further attempts will undoubtedly improve.

Performances are almost a mute point. The actors employed physically adhere to their stereotyped role, and effectively do what they're there for: die. The bad guys, while as grotesque physically, are lacking the malice of their forbearers in performance. Their threat in this film is reduced entirely to a physical representation, and therefore they don't entice the audience to cheer when inevitably the few remaining survivors turn the tables.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 was given a savage beating on its theatrical release, and has not garnered a great deal of praise from any arena. But for making a niche horror film that pushes the boundaries of ‘mass-acceptance', and at least attempting something edgy, all involved should be applauded. This is not a great movie, but it's not a bad one either. If the original (remake) gave you a guilty kick last year, you could do worse than to spend a couple of hours with its sequel.


DVD

DVD Details:

A fairly extensive collection of featurettes, including one on the production of a graphic novel. Gag reel, a few deleted scenes, alternate ending, promo trailer for the first Hills movie (unusually not one for itself?) and a three-on-one talk with Wes Craven and film students that is no where near as kinky as I just described it.

Screen formats: Widescreen 2.35:1 presentation

Subtitles: English; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

Extra Features:

* Commentary -
o With director Martin Weisz
* Featurettes
o Mutant Attacks - (09:48)
o Birth of a Graphic Novel - (12:41)
o Exploring the Hills: Making of 'The Hills Have Eyes 2 - (12:42)
o Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School with Wes Craven (10:20)
* Deleted Scenes
o 4 scenes that didn't make the final cut playable separately or all together for a total (03:15).
* Alternate Ending - (00:56)
* Gag Reel - (03:39)
* Trailer - 2005 version of The Hills Have Eyes.

Number of discs: - 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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