Directed by Martin Weisz
When I was growing up in Brooklyn, it was my father’s job to bring home movies every now and then that we could enjoy as a family. This was most certainly “family time,” but my father didn’t exactly bring home good, wholesome family movies. Never would we see a white bread comedy with goofy slapstick pratfalls and fart humor. Oh no. My father stuck to one theme in particular. It was the end of the world or the world was a wasteland, and there were three key things everyone wanted: 1. Women 2. Gas 3. Water. Sometimes, the movie was ambitious and to my chagrin the characters sought all three! The Hills Have Eyes 2 hearkens to those rosy days of my youth. The mutants are back, defending their wasteland home … and I’ll let you guess which commodity is in short supply.
With a brief nod to the first film remake, Hills 2 is off and running with a very simple storyline. Those merry pranksters in the US Military are well aware of what lies in them-thar-hills, but they send in a team to monitor the region anyway. If the scientists had only gotten their cameras positioned a little faster, they’d have some fantastic footage to send to whatever the current incarnation of Bloopers and Practical Jokes may be. Everyone knows, dismemberment = com-o-dey! When members of the tech team go missing, those same jokers send in a farm fresh team of GAP model army reservists who can’t even complete training exercises without getting each other blown to fictitious bits. It’s like throwing a two-year-old a hand grenade and saying, “Let’s watch!”
Before you can say “horny mutant”, the irradiated cave dwellers start making themselves known like smelly ninjas, snatching weapons, gear, and the occasional unlucky soldier without so much as a grunt to signal they were there. Many an inappropriate laugh will be shared as limbs are launched skyward, bodies explode on impact, and the mutants do their best to slay with a snaggle-toothed grin on their faces. I guess service with a smile still means something somewhere in America. At any rate, that is your whole plot. Soldiers go into the hills, mutants are in the hills, let’s get it on.
Flex Alexander trades his Snakes on a Plane for hideously deformed hicks on a mountain when he takes on the roll of “Sarge”. The character is fairly one-dimensional and uninteresting and I’ll even add not as hardcore as any sergeant character I’ve seen in many a military movie. Sure he barks at the troops, but when you’ve got a guy like R. Lee Ermy out there raising the role to an art form, you’ve got to at least attempt to fill one boot! Michael McMillian plays PFC “Napoleon” Napoli, the bumbling geek-soldier constantly struggling with his desire to play things safe versus running headlong into danger to back up his team. Napoleon stands out as one of two of the most “real” characters in this film, showing a fair mix of character development and quality acting combined to create a satisfying result. Napoleon delivers some much needed comic relief as well in a movie that could have used a few more awkward but hysterical moments.
My second “real” character is PFC “Crank” aka Private Crack Head played by Jacob Vargas, who provides genuine moments highlighted with an expression plastered across his face that screams “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON OUT HERE?!” Crank is very much a kid with a great big automatic weapon, thrown into a situation with insanity at every turn, a role that Vargas embraces fully and makes his own. Daniella Alonso appears as PFC “Missy”, whose only character vehicle is staring lovingly into her Samsung video phone to watch her child sing. Yeah, it’s a blatant grab at your heart strings moment and, in my opinion, comes off clumsy, ineffective, and as subtle as a 300-pound mutant humping your leg.
This would be the perfect segue into a discussion about our new hill fiends or, as we call them, the OTHER Fall Out Boys (cue the drum kick), though this boy band is a bit less emo. These young heartthrobs have a deep love for the ladies and go after the object of their desire with a certain … vigor that includes healthy amounts of drool and other various bodily fluids. To be brief and not spill the government issue bunker beans, there is some naaaaasty shit going on in this film. Gives a new meaning to the term “Bumping Uglies”.
Much like the first Hills remake, we are treated to an array of original mutant characters, all with unique physical appearances and personalities. Unfortunately, with little to no dialogue of their own and minimal interaction with the soldiers, we aren’t allowed the fun of either loving or hating any one of them. There are no strong personalities here, just freaky looking creatures who mumble garbled words before they attack. I’ll also point out that save the one “Chameleon” Mutant, the look of the bunch was largely uninspired.
Say what you will about Alexandre Aja; when he directed Hills ’06, you could clearly see a haze to the film that added to the frantic pace set before you. It kept you in the moment. The look was dirty and raw, which enhanced any vicious act the mutants played upon that poor middle-class family that found themselves stuck in the desert. By the time the final battle took place, you already knew whom you hated, whom you loved, and even which mutants you wanted to root for. Solid characterizations set up by Billy Drago, Robert Joy, Michael Bailey Smith, and Ezra Buzzington certainly helped that mentality along. When the bad guys are that amusing to watch, you can’t help yelling for them to at least get in last licks (no Hills 2 pun intended).
The Hills Have Eyes 2 has abandoned all this. Director Martin Weisz goes for a slicker outing with overly used stereotypes, bad military lingo, and an unrealistically attractive cast. Even a brief moment of fun with the always interesting Jeff Kober, playing this film’s “doomsayer”, doesn’t brighten up Hills 2 enough for it to be must-see recommended viewing. I can’t even bring myself to say drop in, turn your brain off, and enjoy as the material presented is just not anywhere near as entertaining as the first run. What you are left with are some slightly bloody kills, a gross-out moment here and there, and red splatter from a distance. Even a particular scene of dismemberment seemed neutered to me. What’s the point if you can’t enjoy yourself while watching people get eviscerated?
The bottom line is The Hills Have Eyes 2 was a bit of a disappointment. This movie was lacking all around and played to me as if it could have premiered on the SciFi Channel, where they have mastered the art of setting a pretty cast against “insert name here”. While the movie is certainly not as bad as the bloodless, scareless, and creepless films of the past few months, it is still not up to snuff with its predecessor. If you’re looking for a handful of gore, a smattering of blood, and a scattered jump scare here and there to ease you into your weekend, you’ve come to the right place. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a genuinely enjoyable, bloodcurdling horror film, this is not the ride for you.
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2 1/2 out of 5
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