THE HILLS HAVE EYES REMAKE II
First, a review of my review of THE HILLS HAVE YES REMAKE I: not so hot. I had so much I wanted to say about that movie that I couldn’t figure out what was actually worth saying. Just skip to the end where I ask, “Are you asking for a movie about mutant cannibals who steal a baby and then raise it in a safe and loving environment? Because I don’t think I would like that movie as much. (I’d watch it, though.)” Somebody oughta do a remake of that review. Sorry, everybody.
Second, a review of the advertising for THE HILLS HAVE EYES REMAKE II: top-notch. The teaser trailer was one single shot of two weird mutants dragging bodies through the desert, then the title of the movie. Because what more needs to be said? A masterpiece of simplicity. I also enjoyed the TV commercial narrator who said, “Last year, critics said THE HILLS HAVE EYES went too far. Now, get ready to go even further…” I am not a fan of advertising in general, so I gotta give credit when credit is due. You did it, fellas.
Okay, now the sequel. Okay at best. Not painful, but not good, a wasted opportunity for sure. Maybe as an homage to the original part 2 it’s worse than the first one in pretty much every respect. Not as stylish or atmospheric, not as good of characters, less of a story, not as tense, less subtext, nothing all that new to offer.
The opening scene is a grossout shocker though. Right off the bat we realize the trouble with these mutants: not enough women in their tribe. When you live deep in a mine in the middle of a top secret military nuclear testing facility it’s hard to meet people who share your interests. These guys must not be so sweet on Big Mama, the bald lady I believe survived part 1. They prefer kidnapping innocent non-radiated women and using them for reproductive purposes. So you see some poor tied-up lady give birth to a baby mutant. And you gotta figure she’s been there for a long time by the apalling state of her toenails.
This is actually a smart way to open the movie because it establishes what the mutants want, and what the non-mutants sure as hell don’t want. And because it actually shows where the baby comes out (fuck you MPAA) you kind of think shit, anything can happen in this movie.
Anything could happen, it’s just that it doesn’t. Maybe it will happen some other time.
The premise of the original part 2 was that some dirt bike racers (including one of the kids from part 1, the surviving dog, and the reformed hill-mutant Ruby) happen to go through the same stretch of desert and run into the mutants again, with less Michael Berryman. This has a way better premise: a team of military trainees goes to deliver equipment to scientists setting up surveillance equipment after the massacre in part 1, and they get attacked by the mutants who live in the mines who you didn’t see before. So the soldiers have to fight and actually go into the mines to save one of their own.
This is a great premise for many reasons, none of which occurred to the filmatists. Even though it’s written by Wes Craven (well, mostly his son Jonathan who wrote the horrible WES CRAVEN’S MIND RIPPER) it doesn’t go for any deeper meaning than “some people fight some mutants.” With American soldiers fighting vicious insurgents in the desert obviously there’s room for some war commentary, but they just settle for pointing out that one character is against “the war” because “the president lies too much.” Later this is the guy who completely destroys a mutant’s head with a rock, but that’s about all you get. Also, let’s face it, the mutant culture is not real enlightened about how to treat their women. And you got two women soldiers here, so it could definitely explore some gender issues. But the Cravens don’t want to, I guess.
The only thing that really reminded me of the themes of the original movie was that the mutants and soldiers have similar names. Listen to these names: Crank, Napoleon, Hansel, Sniffer, Spitter, Chameleon… can you guess which ones are the mutants?
Of course, I might follow the Dawn of the Dead Remake Precedent and forgive a lack of substance if the movie was full of kickass action. And it sure oughta be. Imagine that tribe of mutants attacks somebody who are trained and equipped to fight back. That’s an Oh Shit It’s On Moment right there. It should be like ALIENS. These people should be smart, and they go into those mines and they run into problems and they don’t know what they’re up against, but they figure out a good strategy and fight a hell of a battle. And the mutants should escalate, they should dig into all the things we know they’ve salvaged over the years and go to code red. You remember the fight the Devil’s Rejects put up when the cops came after them? Well this is a tribe of mutant savages, they live for this shit. This should be all out fuckin mayhem!
Sorry. No antes will be upped. They use the excuse that these are trainees to treat them like any stupid victims in any other horror movie. The typical suburban family of the original actually put up a better fight. This is some special branch of the military where you’re allowed to keep your hair pretty long if you are sensitive or into mountain climbing. These guys suck. Maybe that’s the political side of this, they are so desperate for new recruits the National Guard even accepts these losers.
Also, I’m not saying I want to be a member of the Carter family or anything, but this new set of characters is more obnoxious. They got what characters in alot of bad movies have, Random Asshole Syndrome (or R.A.S.). This is where instead of writing believable or interesting characters, they gotta make everybody have a sticker bush up their ass the entire movie for no reason, always insulting and bickering with each other, and saying that everything is “bullshit.” It’s kind of funny when the anti-war guy is called “peace ass shit boy,” because that’s the kind of poorly conceived insult real people tend to come up with, but otherwise it’s not very enjoyable to watch these pricks hate each other for 90 minutes.
One main character in particular bugged me because he reminded me too much of that comedian Carlos Mencia. Imagine if Carlos Mencia was younger, and was actually Mexican instead of a German-Columbian guy pretending to be Mexican so he can say “beaner,” but he’s still an unfunny asshole saying moronic shit all the time. That’s Jacob Vargas’s character.
And the mutants are of a reasonably high quality strain, but not the greatest. They are better than a WRONG TURN type mutant but a little less interesting than either the original HILLS or the original remake. They have little character moments but not enough. There is even less talking and interaction than in the first one. There was more personality to Lizard and some of those guys. The new sort-of-nice-mutant is not as good as Ruby, although it’s funny that he looks like Eric Stoltz in the movie MASK. It might even be the same character and that’s why he’s trying to be nice. I wonder why Cher abandoned him in a mine, though, that’s pretty shitty of her. Anyway, the big lugs aren’t as big as the ones in the first remake. One guy has a long tongue, though. The better to get bitten off.
Alot of the things you try to do in a good sequel, they don’t try to do in this one. There is not even much continuity. I understand most of the characters from the first one are dead, but not all of them. (Well, we do learn that all the surviving heroes actually died, ALIEN 3 style.) But it would be nice to see some connection with the mutants. There are no re-appearing characters here, unless maybe one of the scorpions you see crawling on the ground is the same.
And what about making it bigger and more exciting? Since going into the mines is sort of the new twist here, you would think there would be something exciting in there, but all you get is one small room with a bunch of body parts hanging up. To quote George Clinton, “It would be ludicrous to think that we are new to this, we do this. This is what we do.” In other words, we Torture Porn Enthusiasts (TPEs) who would watch this movie have already seen more original and elaborate underground cannibal digs in TEXAS CHAINSAW 2. We were hoping for something more deluxe.
There are some good moments here and there. The best is right at the beginning though. A mutant who looks like the Toxic Avenger impales a guy on a spear and then uses it to toss him over a cliff. Imagine if you stabbed a watermelon with a long spear and then tried to catapult it at overhand as far as you could, that’s what it’s like. And then the topper is there’s an overhead shot of this ugly bastard raising his arms in victory and barking like a walrus. That’s how I like my mutants.
(Somebody should edit that into the trailer for Shawshank Redemption.)
One original gross out scene involves a dude climbing out of a latrine covered in shit. The soldier they call Napoleon (ha ha, not a mutant’s name) is taking a shit when a hand reaches up and grabs his ass. That is some freaky shit but instead of using it for a scare they gotta make it into a joke. Another soldier asks who’s in there and Napoleon says, “Shitman the Barbarian – I don’t know!”
What the hell does that even mean? You gotta ruin a good scene with a joke and the joke doesn’t even make any god damn sense. Why would he be making up names of barbarians when something this crazy just happened? It doesn’t fly.
Shitman the Barbarian. Come on, Cravens. You can do better. You must do better.
The direction is competent but not half as stylish or effective as the first remake. Technically this part 2 is better than the original part 2, but since it doesn’t have a dog flashback it’s not as memorable, I will not be rewatching it like I do the original. Sorry.
I kind of hope it makes money though because part 3 will be a last chance for a do-over. I do like the way it ends, setting up a badass sequel. The Toxic Avenger guy from the beginning barely survives, and he’s crying and dragging the dead bodies of two of his brothers through the mines into an area we haven’t seen before. He comes to this sort of platform made of junk, where he lifts up the dead bodies, one by the hair and one by the ankle. And he yells, “This… Are… WARGH! THIS ARE WARRRRR!” and then the camera pulls back to show this crowd of dozens, maybe hundreds of crazy mutants there deep in the mines, they all let out these bizarre cheers and militantly pump their knives and spears and weird retro-fitted guns in the air. Oh shit, it’s on.
Okay, actually I made up that ending, what really happens is they kill one of the mutants and then leave. I was actually surprised when it ended, I thought something big was still gonna happen. I’m not saying they gotta go with my corny ending, but they shoulda come up with something to leave you wanting more. If there’s another sequel they should do what they shoulda done this time, and escalate. The military knows what’s going on there so they should send in an actual strike force, go into the mines and try to wipe ’em out. It should be a fuckin World War II movie but with mutants. Or THE DIRTY DOZEN. Get some memorable non-mutant characters for once, and an army of mutants. Or if they want to go political again they could have the mutant uprising, they actually attack the army base themselves, or a New Mexico suburb, and then the humans chase them back into the mines where they have all kinds of boobie traps set up.
Do you know who Survival Research Laboratories are? They’re these weirdos from San Francisco who build robots and make them fight each other as kind of a performance art. Not like the battlebots, these are horrifying machines out of your nightmares, sometimes they staple cowskin to them and weird shit like that, and they accompany the fights with scary sounds of metal clanging and rabbits dying. They spray fire at each other, chop each other up, destroy windows with air cannons, sometimes people in the audience actually get hurt. Alot of their parts are stolen from dumpsters and they use animal parts to create horrible smells. The robotmakers follow a samurai code like me, they don’t believe in selling out, they even turned down doing a music video with Herbie Hancock. According to one of their videos they did consider a proposal from some anarchists to “steal” their robots and use them to fight against police, but they decided against it.
But I swear I read one time that one of the guys from SRL was actually convinced to direct part 3 in the original HILLS HAVE EYES series. Of course it never happened, and evolved into that horrible MINDRIPPER movie I mentioned before. But can you imagine what that psycho would’ve come up with for the hill mutants to do? Something a whole lot more interesting than part 2 here, that’s for sure. Come on Cravens, let’s put some god damn imagination into this thing next time. I don’t care if you’re trying to get it finished in a year, you can still come up with some exciting ideas to throw in there.
Let’s see something we haven’t seen before, please. You can do it, Cravens. Don’t fuck this up again.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.