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Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985), The

Kino // R // March 20, 2012
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted March 6, 2012 | E-mail the Author
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2: a.k.a. Wes Craven Has a Mortgage.

The story goes that Wes Craven quickly disowned The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, hammering out a quick-and-dirty sequel because he desperately needed the cash. Remember, we're talking about the guy who cowrote
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the legendary killer-cellphone genre classic Pulse and directed the dreadful inner-city-inspirational-teacher flick Music of the Heart too; if he disowns a movie, as all over the place as his filmography is, it's gotta be painful. The really bizarre thing is that this was made in the wake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, a movie that was shot for next-to-nothing but is overflowing with imagination and boasts a dazzlingly inventive visual eye. That well must have been tapped completely dry when cameras started to roll on The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 however many months later. As disturbing as the original The Hills Have Eyes remains all these years later, the sequel doesn't deliver anything close to that. Its kills are bloodless and uninspired. Its cannibalistic butchers devolve into cartoon characters, failing to exude even a little bit of menace. Its sense of humor is gawky and campy, flailing its arms around in one dismally failed attempt after another to mug for a laugh. Craven's dialogue is howlingly bad. The story doesn't really make any sense. There's nothing bearing a passing resemblance to tension or
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suspense along the way. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 can't even deliver a competent jump scare. Since just about nothing happens in this sequel -- The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is literally half over before it bothers with its first kill -- it instead leans heavily on looooooooooooooooong flashbacks to the original flick, and even those once-intense sequences feel tepid and watered-down without any context. The dog has a flashback, for cryin' out loud. Despite being a kinda seasoned filmmaker by this point, Craven's writing and direction are more amateurish than ever, and he's backed by a cast and crew that have even less of an idea of what they're doing. Maybe some schadenfreude aside, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about The Hills Have Eyes Part 2. I've practically made a career out of slogging through the worst movies ever committed to film, and The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 managed to pierce through those cinematic callouses and make me bleed out.

Ack. With that way-too-long rant out of the way, I guess I can say a few words about what passes for a plot. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 picks up eight years after the original. Bobby (Robert Houston) is still reeling from watching his family be chopped up into bloody, fist-sized chunks right in front of him, but with the help of modern psychiatry, he's gotten to the point where he can lead a vaguely happy, productive life. I mean, the guy's invented a Super Formula fuel that'll propel his dirt bike team to the top of the charts and make 'em all a mint! It's just that the race that's gonna get them there is in the same desolate stretch of desert where his folks were butchered, and he's not ready for that quite yet. That's okay; he still has Rachel (Janus Blythe) to stand in for him. You probably know her better as good-hearted cannibalette Ruby, but she's all civilized now, and you can tell because she's a snazzy dresser and well-coiffed and kind of looks like the mom from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Rachel and the Super Formula Dirt Bike Team set out in their painted-red schoolbus for the track, but they were already running late and kinda forgot about daylight savings time, so they decide to take a shortcut. Through the desert. On a barely-there dirt road. Smack-dab into the cannibals' hunting grounds.
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Yeah, so you can kinda guess what happens next since you've already watched a less-shitty version of this. They're hopelessly stranded. The group's split apart. Pluto (Michael Berryman) and Unca Reaper (John Bloom) bloodlessly knock 'em off one-by-one. The final two survivors set a trap that's pretty much indistinguishable from what happened in the original. Hmmm...they sure do spend a lot of the movie yammering on about the Super Formula fuel but never really do anything with it. Do you think that might play into the explosive finalé of The Hills Have Eyes Part 2? I mean, I don't want to give anything away, but...

The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 might be more fun if it were worse. This, though...? It's mostly just tedious. Even with all those pranksters and some Amos and Andy gyuk-yuk comic relief, it's never funny, accidentally or otherwise. A couple of quickly flashed boobies don't make it sexy. With the room temperature menace of Pluto and The Reaper, it sure as hell isn't scary, unnerving, disturbing, eerie, creepy, or anything else I could find if I felt like thumbing through the thesaurus. Come on! You have a bunch of cannibals and a hot, blind, psychic girlfriend! How can that movie be that boring?! The one thing I was kind of impressed with is that Pluto and The Reaper would go to such lengths to pepper the desert with booby-traps that really only work for dirt bikes, so they've gotta be thrilled to finally have a bunch of kids show up with some. I also love the fact that the Jupiters have pinned up a newspaper article of their reign of terror from the cheerfully generic "Desert News". Anyway, though, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is such a complete failure in every possible respect that...I don't even know what Wes Craven and company were aiming for, exactly. It feels like there was a concerted move to Friday the 13th-up a movie that wasn't really looking for a sequel in the first place, tossing a bunch of barely-twentysomethings with grating, cartoonishly oversized personalities in the desert for a couple of mostly-unseen killers to slaughter. The production values are worse than even the
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lowest-budgeted and most formulaic '80s slashers I've ever come across, leaning pretty much completely on the notoriety of its title. It's genuinely tough to fully describe just how wretchedly awful a movie this is. However bad you're picturing The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 as being, it's a hell of a lot worse than that. I mean, I've subjected myself to it before, even, and my not-particularly-fond memories still didn't come close to how miserable and boring a slog this was. Ugh. Can't write anymore. Just Skip It.

Well, one way that The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 has a leg up over the original is that it -- audible gasp! -- actually is in high definition. You might remember that Image Entertainment just upconverted a creaky old DVD master for their Blu-ray disc of the first flick, but Kino really did go back to the original film elements for their high-def release of the sequel.

Okay, okay, there is kind of a ceiling to how great a movie like The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 can realistically look in HD, seeing as how you couldn't buy a Beef-'n-Cheddar combo at Arby's on a budget that low. The cinematography can be pretty erratic, sometimes looking soft even for a no-budget 16mm flick that's closing in on its thirtieth anniversary. When everything's in focus and the camera has any light to play with at all, detail and clarity tend to come through really well. I mean, at its best, it's a dramatic improvement over anything a DVD could hope to deliver. Black levels pack a wallop, and even with as drab and bland as the 1983-TV-movie palette is, those colors frequently seem like they're where they're supposed to be. Especially in the daylit exteriors, you can definitely tell that this is a high-def colorspace. Film grain isn't as pronounced as I would've expected -- maybe it's from a 35mm blowup or something, muddying that texture a bit? -- but it doesn't look like any heavy-handed noise reduction has been heaped on either. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 also veers away from any clunky edge enhancement, and there aren't any hiccups in the compression that ever caught my eye. There is a good bit of speckling on display here, but it's not enough to get on my nerves, and I'd rather have something natural like flecks of dust creep in than slather on a bunch of overly digital filtering.

I don't want to oversell the way The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 looks in high-def. There's definitely some black crush to deal with, and the movie really struggles with the borderline-complete lack of light throughout so many sequences, such as this case-in-point:

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The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is a rough-looking movie, alright, but this is the right kind of rough. I'm left with the sense that this is a very faithful, very authentic presentation of a movie that's never looked any good, and...well, what more could you ask for here than that?

Technical stuff! The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is served up on a single-layer Blu-ray disc. The image has been pillarboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 -- which I'm pretty sure makes for the first ever widescreen home video release of this movie -- and has been encoded with AVC.

This PCM stereo track isn't easy listening so much. I thought I spotted some hissing at first, but the track is SO LOUD that I had to dial the volume down so much lower than normal and couldn't hear that sort of background noise anymore. Even at a fraction of my usual reference volume, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is still some kind of aural abuse. Pretty much everything in the mix -- down to every last line of dialogue -- is crackly and distorted. That makes a lot of the already-terrible effects -- such as one girl getting a too-tight bearhug that sounds like someone's stamping on an empty
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can of Mountain Dew -- come through even worse. Some of the stereo separation is uncomfortably hard too, sounding kind of forced and unnatural, and there really isn't anything going on in the lower frequencies. As messy a track as this is, there is still something impressively pure about it, as if you could picture a bunch of reel-to-reel tapes whirring away in the background or something. It's so rough-hewn that it's genuinely painful to listen to, though.

There aren't any other audio options, by the way.

It's not surprising but still kind of a drag that there really aren't any extras at all.
  • Trailer (3 min.; HD): The trailer for The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is also dished out at 1.66:1 and in high-def to boot. There are also five trailers for a few completely unrelated Jean Rollin films, all in HD as well.

  • Gallery (HD): This high-res still gallery has a particularly clean, intuitive interface. I wouldn't mind seeing something like this become the new standard.

The Final Word
Yeah, yeah, the promotional copy on the flipside of the case drones on and on about what an edge-of-your-seat thriller this is and how it's some sort of iconic genre classic, It's not even one of those "your mileage may vary" deals. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is an objectively abysmal movie, and if you like it, you're wrong. There's still some twisted little part of me that's kind of thrilled that a flick this universally reviled has not only found its way to Blu-ray but manages to look pretty damned good while it's at it, and I'm sure there are enough horror masochists out there like me who'll bite anyway. No matter what I think about the movie, I absolutely support Kino doing right by mostly forgotten genre flicks, and I really hope they don't plan on stopping anytime soon. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 really is about as bad as it gets, though, so if you're planning on bravely venturing forth anyway...y'know, brace yourself. Skip It.
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