Ok, time for a little confession. You’d think with all the movies I’ve seen, there wouldn’t be too awful many of them that have slipped under my radar. This however isn’t the least bit true. There are a whole lot of famous films I’ve never seen. For example, I’ve never seen any of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Neither have I seen more than the first film in the Friday the 13th series, even though I own most of them. I’ve also never seen any of the Halloween films, and only the first three Hellraiser films. I know, shocking huh? Why haven’t I seen them? Well, because honestly, they never really appealed to me, or in the case of the Hellraiser films, only the first few piqued my interest. I preferred instead to focus on other franchises like Evil Dead, Phantasm and Re-Animator. Why am I telling you all of this? Because The Hills have Eyes was a film I never particularly had any interest in seeing, and while I was aware of the first film, I really had no idea there was ever a sequel made. I guess there are several reasons for this. Not only has this film received horrible reviews, but Wes Craven himself has pretty much disowned it and said he only did it because he needed the money. Recently, I received a press release from Kino Lorber that the Horizon label was releasing The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 on DVD and blu-ray. So I figured, what the hell, I’ll take a look, and requested a blu-ray copy of the film.
This request required me to do something I’ve only done one other time that I can remember. I had to purchase the first film so I could watch it before seeing this one. The only other time I’ve done that was when I received a screener of In The Name of the King 2 and I bought the first one so I could watch it ahead of time. In that case, the first one was awesome and the second one, which I had to review, absolutely sucked. I mean, to say it was bad would be like saying that the ebola virus is a minor annoyance. It was bad bad. Anyway, I got lucky in this case.
When I went to purchase The Hills Have Eyes, almost universally the reviews on Amazon said that the picture quality on the blu-ray was horrible and it looked like a VHS copy. That’s really pathetic for obvious reasons, so I ended up getting the two-disc special edition DVD. So I watched the first film, and It was actually not only different than I expected, but it was also better. It wasn’t awesome, but it was pretty good and for the most part I found it entertaining, even though the victim family in it was unbelievably annoying. So that one out of the way, I popped in Part 2, not having great expectations after all the negative reviews I had read about it. I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw!
This film takes place eight years after the first one. Five people and one dog survived the first one. Bobby, his sister, his brother-in-law, his baby niece, their dog Beast, and Ruby, who was with the evil cannibal family that was killing everyone, but turned on them when they wanted to kill the baby and eat it. She left the family and not only saved the baby, but she saved Bobby’s brother-in-law as well. Now, eight years later, she’s changed her name to Rachel and has some sort of a relationship with Bobby that’s not really made clear. She’s either his wife, girlfriend or just a really close friend. Anyway, Bobby now owns a Yamaha motorcycle dealership and they have a racing team. He’s also developed a super fuel that he’s hoping will not only help them to win a big race that’s coming up, but that he can sell to the oil companies or whoever for a whole lot of money. Unfortunately, that big race that’s coming up…I bet you can guess where it’s taking place. Yep, that’s right. It’s happening in the very same desert that the prior movie took place in eight years earlier. When he has a major breakdown about going back there, Rachel tells him its ok if he stays behind and that she’ll go with the team. Once they leave, this is the last we see of Bobby in the film, and the rest takes place out in the desert.
On the team, we have seven people including Rachel, and the dog Beast, who’s now older and being used as a stud. The main guy on the team is a racer nanmed Roy who has a blind girlfriend named Cass who has like, bat hearing. Since she’s blind, she hears literally every minute sound and can tell where things are and what’s going on around her that other people don’t even notice. Then there’s Harry, the obnoxious one, Jane, the pretty but useless filler character, another one named Hulk that doesn’t seem to have a set job on the team. Lastly, we have a very amusing black mechanic guy named Foster who was responsible for the best and funniest quote in the film, and his girlfriend Sue, who for the most part was another filler character.
So there’s the good guys. Then on the bad guys side we have Pluto, once again played by Michael Barryman who supposedly died at the end of the first film after Beast messed him up bad, and The Reaper, played by 7′ 4" John Bloom. I was shocked when I found out he was 7′ 4" tall. There wasn’t any shot in the film that indicated to me that he was that tall, but man, this guy is huge! Apparently, The Reaper is Papa Jup’s big brother. Papa Jup was the father of the cannibal family and died at the end of the first film. The Reaper found Pluto almost dead and nursed him back to health, which created two major story issues. First, there was no mention of Papa Jup having an older brother in the first film. In fact, the story and how it played out pretty much eliminated any chance that he did, and even if he did, he wouldn’t have been messed up like Papa Jup was. Second, The first attack from Beast that Pluto suffered in the first film severed his achilles tendon and really messed up the back of his ankle bad. There’s no way some giant mutated guy out in the desert would have any knowledge or ability to fix that wound so that Pluto could walk properly again.
Ok so, a couple of story issues that didn’t fit. To be honest, in some films it might matter, but in this one it really didn’t. The main story in this film is that the team is late for the race in the desert and they end up having to take a shortcut through the desert to cut an hour off their travel time so they can make it in time. Unfortunately, the road they were on was full of rocks and one of them hit the gas tank of their bus, causing most of their fuel to drain out before they discovered it. They managed to make it to an old mining camp, but unfortunately, this is where Pluto and The Reaper are hanging out. You can pretty much guess the rest. This plot point did lead to one other issue. They started searching around the camp for fuel, and I’m thinking, why didn’t they just drain the bikes and use that gas? The bikes had modified, two sided tanks. One side had normal fuel and the other side had the super fuel. They said they couldn’t use the super fuel in the bus without blowing up the engine, but not only did they have normal fuel in the bikes, but I have to believe they brought normal fuel with them since the tanks on the bikes needed both. But hey, if they did that then there’d be no reason for them to be in the mining camp in the desert now would there?
Anyway, there’s pretty much what you’d expect in this film. People getting killed in cool ways, a major death struggle at the end, etc…, but this film has something the first film didn’t…likeable characters. While the family in the first film was unbelievably annoying and had you pulling for most of them to die in horrible ways, aside from the obnoxious guy on the team, these characters were all ok, so you could acually invest yourself in wanting them to survive to the end of the film.
This film, for something that was apparently thrown together, actually came out really good. Despite the few story issues, the cast was great, the acting was good, the dialogue was entertaining and we get to see people killed in fun and interesting ways. Isn’t that why we watch films like this? All the elements are there, which is why it baffles me why Wes Craven has disowned this film and why it’s gotten so many bad reviews. I just don’t get it. I thoroughly enjoyed it! The first 25 or so minutes of the film has several flashbacks to the first film, so even if you’ve never seen the first one, you can get enough of a back story from the flashbacks that you don’t really need to have seen it before seeing this one.
The visual quality of this blu-ray release is quite good. It looks like Image Entertainment put out the blu-ray of the original film, which surprises me when I read about how bad the visual quality is. Image is a good company and I find it shocking and disappointing that they would put out a low quality release like that. The DVD release I got of the first film was from Anchor Bay and it looks quite good and has tons of great extras. While this blu-ray release from Horizon doesn’t have any special features other than a trailer and an image gallery, the quality of the visuals is better than expected and the sound is excellent.
I want to wrap this up by stating three things. First, if you enjoyed the first film, I think you’ll actually enjoy this one more. I did anyway. I thought it was a lot of fun.
Second, I met Michael Barryman at a film festival several years ago. While I didn’t really get to talk to him, which is something I regret, I did notice that he was a really nice, chatty guy and was great to everyone.
Lastly, I met Wes Craven once many years ago, and I actually did get to talk to him. I was working as a security guard at a Doubletree Hotel in Santa Rosa, California when he was there making the first Scream film. He wanted to shoot part of it at Santa Rosa High School, and the moronic school board was giving him a big hassle about it because they didn’t like the idea of shooting a horror film at the high school. He came in late one night after a particularly annoying meeting with them and I talked to him for a bit at the front desk about it all. He was a very nice guy, as (from all reports) were all the people involved with the film except for Rose McGowan, who most of the crew hated because of her diva attitude, which I hope she’s changed since then. I have other stories from hanging out with the wardrobe guy, but that’s totally unrelated so I’ll just end this by saying, Wes Craven is a really cool guy, or at least he was then, and if you ever get a chance to meet and talk with him of Michael Barryman, you really should. They’re both great.
Anyway, I’ve yapped long enough. I know this was long, even for one of my reviews, but I figured hey, I’m actually writing it early for a change, so why not?