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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Hills Have Eyes: Part 2 (Blu-ray)
The Hills Have Eyes: Part 2 (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // R // September 24, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $49.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted September 26, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Written and directed by Wes Craven and released in 1984, seven years after the success of the original film (and the same year that his classic A Nightmare On Elm Street proved a massive success), The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 has never been regarded as a particularly good film. It sets aside the unflinching intensity and nihilism of the first picture in favor of a lighter, more action-oriented tone that sometimes works well enough, and sometimes clearly does not.

When the film begins, Bobby Carter (Robert Houston), after surviving the events of the first picture, has decided to start a dirt bike racing team! He's even gone so far as to formulate a special fuel that will give the riders on his team an advantage during competition. Unfortunately for Bobby, the next competition his team gets slated to compete in just so happens to be staged out in the same stretch of desert where he lost some beloved family members years back. He's been seeking psychotherapeutic treatment to help get over the trauma of his past, but he keeps thinking back to it (and as such, the movie keeps flashing back to it, there's padding galore in this picture… even the damn dog has a flashback!).

When Bobby refuses to go (and subsequently splits from the rest of the picture!), he's replaced by Ruby (Janus Blythe), the co-owner of the racing team who split from her cannibal family in the first movie to help out the Carters. She's all cleaned up now and far more civilized than she once was! Except there's a twist… see since Ruby is now going by Rachel, no one really knows her true identity. She gets the racing team together and, along with their various girlfriends, they head out into the desert for the race with a blind girl named Cass (Tamara Stafford), who may or may not be psychic, in tow. Just as they decide to take a short cut through some very familiar territory, of course their bus breaks down. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens from here as Pluto (a sorely underused Michael Berryman) and the remaining cannibal tribespeople, led by Reaper (John Bloom), demonstrate that the more things change, the more things really do remain the same.

Sorely lacking in tension or suspense and devoid of all but the most minor of scares, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is a pretty lame cash-in on the success of the original film's success (Craven admitted he did this one for the money and it shows). While it's great to see Berryman back in what is surely his most iconic role, he doesn't get enough screen time here to save the picture and instead, Pluto fans are left wanting more. Janus Blythe gets considerably more screen time, which is cool and all, but the story around her character is more than a little contrived. The other returning actor, Robert Houston, is also out of the film before it really gets moving, there to setup the dirt bike thing, suffer through a flashback and then more or less disappear.

And it would have been all well and good to take the ‘fan pleasing' aspects out of the movie if it gave fans something to appreciate instead. There's no shame at all in trying something different, in fact, it's admirable, but Craven doesn't really do that here. Everything feels tepid, half-assed and underdeveloped. Even the kill scenes which, like it or not, are typically the highpoints of a horror film, feel neutered with most of the carnage taking place off screen. This is made all the more disappointing by the fact that the film is actually setup quite well. Delving into Bobby's trauma would have allowed Craven to take the story into some interesting directions, but this is never properly exploited the way it needed to be. The inclusion of a dirt bike racing team does, admittedly allows for some cool footage of dirt bike riders riding their dirt bikes (which is cool no matter how you slice it) and the cinematography is nice. Berryman is great when he's on screen but puzzlingly played more as a comedic character than the ominous threat that he was in the original. Bloom is a decent enough heavy to work alongside him. But plot holes and logic gaps abound, and the whole thing just feels very quickly put together with no real thought behind it.

The Video:

The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 arrives from Arrow on a 50GB disc with a transfer taken from a ‘new 2k scan of original film elements' in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85.1 widescreen. While the flashback scenes are taken from a 16mm source and therefore considerably grainier than the rest of the movie, the bulk of the film is very clean and shows almost no print damage at all (there are a couple of noticeable but faint horizontal scratches). Colors really pop here, they look quite vibrant without seeming to have been artificially boosted at all. Detail is very strong and there's a whole lot of depth and texture to the image to take in. The feature has been afforded a generous bit rate and as such, there are no compression artifacts nor are there any issues with any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement. Really, there's nothing to complain about here, this is an excellent transfer. Granted, this still looks like the low budget eighties horror picture that it is, so keep that in mind while watching it, but the picture quality here is quite a bit improved over the previous Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber while still feeling very much ‘true to source' as an accurate representation of the film's intended, original look.

The Audio:

The sole audio option for the feature itself is an English language LPCM Mono track. Optional subtitles are offered up in English SDH only. While the limitations of the source material are obvious at times, resulting in some flatness and occasionally muffled dialogue, the track is generally of very fine quality. It's properly balanced and been nicely cleaned up, free of any noticeable hiss or distortion and with accurate levels evident throughout. Range is understandably limited but overall, this is, again, a nice improvement over the previous Blu-ray release.

The Extras:

Extras start off with a brand-new audio commentary with the members of the popular slasher movie podcast, The Hysteria Continues. If you're familiar with the podcast or their other tracks then you'll have a good idea of what to expect here. The four guys offer a good mix of observation and critical analysis as well as trivia and information about the making of the picture. It's a good listen and down with a good sense of humor that manages to entertain without ever seeming like it's dismissive of the film or its fans.

After that, spend some time with Blood, Sand, And Fire: The Making Of The Hills Have Eyes Part II, which is an all-new thirty-one-minute making-of documentary comprised of interviews with actors Michael Berryman and Janus Blythe, production designer Dominick Bruno, composer Harry Manfredini and unit production manager/first assistant director John Callas. It's an interesting piece that sheds some light on the making of the film by way of stories from those who were there. Lots of talk here about what it was like on set, the conditions of the desert locations used for the shoot and how everyone got along, but there's also talk about the score, the storyline, thoughts on the film itself and, of course, quite a lot of reminiscing about the late Wes Craven. It's a nicely put together piece and absolutely worth checking out if you want to know more about the history of the picture.

Rounding out the extras on the disc is a pretty massive still gallery, the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

As to the packaging, the disc comes packaged with six postcards and a reversible fold-out poster of the original one sheet artwork in addition to a very nice limited edition forty-page full color booklet featuring an essay on the film by Amanda Reyes and an archival set visit from Fangoria. The clear Blu-ray keepcase also contains reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper. All of this fits inside a nice, sturdy side-loading box, matching the special edition release Arrow did of the original film awhile back (and looking excellent next to it on the shelf… even if it is a slightly different size!).

Overall:

The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 isn't a good a particularly good movie and Arrow's Blu-ray doesn't change that. However, it has its moments and despite its obvious flaws, it's entertaining enough even if it can't hold a candle to the film that inspired it. Arrow's Blu-ray collector's edition Blu-ray release does present the film in great shape and with some choice extra features and beautiful packaging as well. Overall, it's a fine package that comes recommended for established fans of the film (but if you don't fall into that category you might want to rent it first).

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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