When confronted with films as cynical and baldly manipulated by cash as is the superfluous The Hills Have Eyes 2, it's all you can do to stay awake throughout its skeletal run time. Existing for no other reason than to capitalize upon the success of Alexandre Aja's 2005 update of Wes Craven's 1977 The Hills Have Eyes, this lazy, brainless sequel to Aja's remake is tenuously linked to the 2005 effort by a few title cards that are so blase, it feels as though the filmmakers added them as an afterthought ("You think people would notice if we didn't connect the two films?").
Stocked with a largely unknown cast, directed by music video hack Martin Weisz and working from what has to be one of the shoddiest scripts Wes Craven's ever put his name on (he even dragged his son Jonathan into this mind-numbing mess), The Hills Have Eyes 2 doesn't waste any time killing off characters -- plenty of blood has spilled before 10 minutes are up. I've nothing against graphic violence and gore, but at the same time, if you aren't even a little invested in the soon-to-be corpses, who really gives a shit how bloody the kills are? That's the most glaring problem with Hills 2: any sense of identification with the bland, interchangeable characters is lost, as is tension and the nerve-jangling air of mystery that so effectively pervades Aja's 2005 film. In its place are howlingly bad special effects (that digital blood needs a bit of work, guys), incredibly bone-headed dialogue ("Oh man, we're gettin' picked off one by one here!" utters one character halfway through -- uh, you think?) and gory setpieces that don't disgust you so much as they bore you silly.
The nominal plot is that a clutch of fresh, young National Guard trainees finds themselves in the very stretch of desert populated by those splotchy flesh-eating mutants that love to hunt humans and every so often, disembowel them for supper. The personality-free gang of soldiers die remarkably unimaginative deaths, ending up in a reductive rip-off of The Descent, just substituting mine shafts for claustrophobic caves. There's not a shred of compelling story to be seen and despite the actors' emoting for all they're worth, you'll never give a damn who dies when or how.
In its lowest moment, Hills 2 indulges in an ugly, completely unnecessary rape sequence that's meant to recapture the gruesome tension of Craven's original, but also the infamous trailer scene in Aja's 2005 remake. It's this shameless attempt to not only reach back to an earlier, more successful film but the fact that the Hills 2 creative team somehow thought that the trailer scene was worth repeating which is most astounding. That particular sequence worked because you were invested in the characters; here, it's a brutal, needless indulgence that just makes you feel slimy all over. The Hills Have Eyes 2 is worthless -- I can't imagine even watching this on cable, bored out of my mind.
As to this "unrated" edition, the film (pre-credits) runs about one hour, 25 minutes; having skipped this in theaters, I can't say whether any footage has been added but it's hard to imagine any more splatter being added. If there are any additions, they're fleeting. As to whether you should pick this version over the theatrical, which is also being released on DVD, I guess that depends on your love of the movie. The DVD
Befitting a recent production, The Hills Have Eyes 2 looks crisp, saturated and spotless in this 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The review disc provided was occasionally marred by a wholly unnecessary 20th Century Fox watermark, so it's possible that the image could differ on the final retail version; nevertheless, what was offered up by the studio for review looks pristine and devoid of any glaring flaws. The Audio:
It's an action-packed horror flick so the speakers have plenty to do -- the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is active throughout, with plenty of ambient effects, sparsely deployed score and thickets of profanity heard with crystal clarity. From shock-cut thumps to incredibly detailed "squish" effects, this is a mix that never devolves into sonic mush. Spanish Dolby 2.0 stereo and French Dolby 2.0 stereo tracks are on board, as are optional English and Spanish subtitles. The Extras:
Nobody felt like stepping up to defend or explain the flick on a commentary track, so you're left with the sizable, but ultimately low-content, supplements: four deleted scenes (playable separately or all together for an aggregate of three minutes, 15 seconds) are included, as is a 56-second alternate ending, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. A three minute, 39 second gag reel (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) is on board, as is the nine minute, 48 second featurette "Mutant Attacks," the 12 minute, 41 second featurette "Birth of a Graphic Novel," the 12 minute, 42 second featurette "Exploring the Hills: Making of 'The Hills Have Eyes 2'," the 10 minute, 20 second featurette "Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School with Wes Craven" and, inexplicably, the non-anamorphic theatrical trailer for the 2005 Hills Have Eyes. Final Thoughts:
The Hills Have Eyes 2 is worthless -- I can't imagine even watching this on cable, bored out of my mind. There's not a shred of compelling story to be seen and despite the actors' emoting for all they're worth, you'll never give a damn who dies when or how. Skip it.