THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II Blu-ray Review – Still As Bad As You Remember It
Starring Tamara Stafford, Kevin Spirtas, John Bloom, Michael Berryman
Directed by Wes Craven
Distributed by Arrow Video
Two words: dog flashback.
Four words: This movie is awful.
Six words: Craven did it for the money.
Eight words: Harry Manfredini writes the same score every time.
Ten words: Arrow Video gave this a special edition worth of Criterion.
Prior to creating an icon with A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), writer/director Wes Craven was apparently so hard-up for cash he agreed to shoot The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984), a hastily-assembled sequel to his effective 1977 cannibal cult classic. The resulting mess has lived in infamy ever since, with Craven himself disowning the film entirely after release – and this is a man who has a handful of real clunkers in his closet.
So, it is really that bad?
Did you miss the part about a dog flashback? Yes, it is – mostly. I have a strong distaste for films that utilize repurposed footage in a clear effort to pad the running time – like Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987) – and even though this sequel doesn’t completely drown in that same well the flashbacks are frequent enough to be annoyingly repetitive. The other issue is that including them assumes your audience either hasn’t seen the first film or doesn’t remember it – both of which are weak reasoning. I could list a half dozen other reasons why the flashbacks don’t work but why bother? Even Craven knew they were a horrid idea.
Another issue is this film follows a pattern so similar to the first it feels incredibly superfluous to include events from the previous film as though they somehow differ greatly. This time, instead of a family getting lost in the desert it’s a group of bike racers who run afoul of Pluto (Michael Berryman) and his cannibal kin. The last film’s main villain, Papa Jupiter, has been replaced by Papa Jupiter 2.0, a gargantuan called Reaper (John Bloom). As expected, the large party splinters off into smaller, easier-to-pick-off groups allowing the cannibals to secure a few extra meals for the week.
Craven’s ennui with making the film is channeled into viewers and, boy, you can really feel his lack of enthusiasm. This was 1984! Craven was no novice but he was on the brink of becoming a household name in horror and this probably felt regressive to him. Luckily, the picture was a bomb, never gaining a theatrical release and instead being dumped to home video, which in those days was not a good thing. This is a feature for completists only; those home video hound dogs who want every film by their favorite directors, in the best edition possible. And as usual, Arrow Video has heard those cries.
Even for a bad film made on the cheap, the 1.85:1 1080p image is remarkably clean and almost impressive – in a handful of shots. The opening credits show a fair amount of damage, and the ubiquitous flashbacks are heavy on the grain and light on fine details, but the sequel proper offers up a picture that’s in line with Arrow’s special edition of the first film. Definition and detailing looks best during daylight, but thanks to tighter contrast and more stable black levels the nighttime action isn’t a murky mess. This is a clear upgrade over the Kino Lorber Blu-ray from 2012, though whether this is a title worth that double-dip depends entirely on the buyer.
Audio is presented via a simple English LPCM 1.0 mono track. This is, again, a nice upgrade over the audibly awful Kino Lorber track. The single channel mix here is cleaned up, with no hissing or pops, and all of the soundscape elements play nicely within the narrow track. Dialogue is clear and free from any issues. Subtitles are available in English SDH.
- Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
- Original uncompressed mono audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
- Blood, Sand, and Fire: The Making of The Hills Have Eyes Part II – brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with actor Michael Berryman, actress Janus Blythe, production designer Dominick Bruno, composer Harry Manfredini and unit production manager/first assistant director John Callas
- Still gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- 6 Postcards
- Reversible fold-out Poster
- Limited Edition 40-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amanda Reyes and an archival set visit from Fangoria
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
While the film may be awful, this edition is far from it and if you, like me, want to own all of the films from your favorite directors then this is an essential.