I actually hadn't seen Wes Craven's 1977 cannibal-survival grindhouse clasc The Hills Have Eyes until recently, and for a movie that has been hyped up a lot, I really liked it. The film definitely had its flaws, but I loved the distinct grindhouse seventies feel of it. So naturally, I sought out the heavily-chastised sequel that Craven himself has disowned. Well, this is one of those cases where the original and sequel couldn't be farther apart. The sequel did improve on a few things, but as a whole, does it hold up well as a follow-up to a horror clasc? We'll all find out once we discover that the hills...still have eyes.
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 1985 Review
The reason I think most people hate this movie is because it is a completely different movie than the first. The first was a savage story of civilized people getting pushed to the brink and forced to lose all senses of decency in order to survive. The sequel is pure slasher cheese obviously bent on capitalizing on the then-fading slasher boom before a rash of new slasher movies hit the market in the late-eighties. In fact, this is almost a total Friday the 13th sequel! There's the "kill every few minutes" approach to things, the Harry Manfredini score that literally sounds EXACTLY like the score from the F13 movies (not "sounds milar," I mean "is the exact same f'ing muc."),the mine locations feel a lot like cabins at Crystal Lake, and Kevin Blair from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood stars! It also utilizes that clasc eighties slasher sequel filler technique of loading the film with flashbacks from the original, but more on that later.
If you haven't figured it out yet, THHE2 is a very cheesy affair. Of course, there's the wonderful, dated fashions and hairstyles straight out of the mid-80s, as well as the dirt biking concept that's also one of those "only in the '80s" ideas that's just brilliant. There's also a scene where Pluto steals a dirt bike and rides off (wearing a football helmet) and two racers give chase on their dirt bikes, leading to a scene that's a mixture of hilarity and awesomeness. Then the Reaper roars in on a dirt bike as well! And let's not forget the horridly stereotypical jive-talking black character whose dialogue will lead to many a laugh and many a groan. There's also the abundance of flashbacks, and, in what is perhaps the film's most infamous scene, Beast, the dog, has a flashback. Yes; the DOG was so traumatized by the events of the first movie that he had a flashback to where he "killed" Pluto. What a badass.
THHE2 does have some merits to its credit, though. Remember way back when I said this movie improved on some things from the original? Well, those two things are the kills and the selection of actors as the killers. In the first film, when the gas station owner told Bob how his son was born and how deformed it was, I always pictured something a lot more horrific than Jupiter (who looked really normal). However, John Bloom as the Reaper is more of what I imagined. Stacking up at 7'4", the Reaper also has a deformed forehead, a scraggly beard, and very pointy teeth. Michael Berryman is camping it up gloriously, as is the rest of the cast, which also includes Peter Frechette (who would go on to appear in one of my favorite monster movies, The Kindred (1986)), Willard E. Pugh (The Color Purple), Penny Johnson (General Hospital), and Coleen Riley (Deadly Blesng).
I liked the decion of bringing back many of the surviving characters of the first film as well as the actors/actresses who played them, even if we only get to see Bobby in the first fifteen minutes before the gang heads off without him. And I was thrilled when they brought back not only the biggest badass in the first movie, but the biggest badass of all time: Beast!* It definitely feels like Craven was writing this purely for the money because of how mple it is, as well as the leaps in logic that could only be the result of a rushed script. There are no twists on the tried and true formula of the slasher, and that's perfectly fine with me. For the most part, there are a wide variety of kills, even if the movie never gets too bloody. There's a very nice slit throat, a killer bear hug, and a spear impalement. The movie does manage to rack up some suspense in the last few minutes when the final girl (who is blind), Cass, is stalked by the Reaper, and there's even an exploon!
Of course, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 does have some flaws. One thing that is both good and bad is the inability to pinpoint a central character until the last few minutes. At first, I thought Bobby would be in the lead because the movie opened with him, and then I thought Rachel/Ruby would be the final girl because of how the film begins to focus on her, but then it begins to focus on Cass, the blind girl. It gets confung, but I liked the unpredictability of the whole thing. The kills, while good, could have been better, and most of them occur in the last 30-40 minutes. The film also has some definite pacing issues, as on rewatch, I saw that it takes about fifty minutes for the kills to start. But for me, the time really flew by because of how entertaining everything was. Berryman doesn't really get to do much bedes mug for the camera, which is a shame, but Bloom did a really good job.
In all seriousness, this is a horrible movie. The acting is nothing special, the kills aren't very memorable, the writing is poor, and it's clearly a "for-the-money" effort. But against all odds, it manages to be very entertaining for most of the wrong reasons. It's a full-on slasher movie that wants to stand next to the Friday the 13th movies, but doesn't quite fill out its potential. The murders should have been either bloodier or more creative (the first death is hilarious), but I think that was just due to budget. It does begin to drag a little bit near the end when it starts to become repetitive, but the journey is still fun. This was released by Image Entertainment a while ago and has recently been re-released by Horizon Movies not just on a remastered DVD, but also on a Blu-Ray! I picked up the DVD, so I can't say anything about the Blu, but the DVD does leave a lot to be dered. I've heard the picture here is much better than Image's, and while it does look sharp, it is rather dark in places. There aren't many bonus features, which include the trailer and a not very well-made photo gallery (some posters, VHS, and pictures from the movie). It's available really cheaply, so in my opinion, it would be worthy of your time to buy either of the two. One thing I find funny is that a movie that Wes Craven put no heart or soul into winds up being really entertaining, while one that he put his all into (My Soul to Take) winds up being less than derable.
The Verdict: The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is a horrible movie that finds its entertainment value in its generous helpings of cheeness, and I might just enjoy it more than the first. Check it out.
Don't trust my judgment? Here are four other opinions:
The Hysteria Lives
Oh The Horror
*I'm being serious. Beast is the biggest badass of all time. I mean, it's essentially the canine veron of Charles Bronson; out for revenge after his companion, Beauty, got killed by the cannibals, and this dog is VICIOUS. I also think it's hilarious how terrified Pluto looks when Rachel/Ruby says Beast is going to get him. Pluto even takes the time to throw multiple insults at Beast when he gets away from him!