The Hills Have Eyes Part 2

Eight years after his original mutants-in-the-desert thriller, and a year after his classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven presumably needed quick money, so he went into the San Bernardino wasteland again and slapped together The Hills Have Eyes Part II. I suppose we should be grateful he didn’t make Next-to-Last House on the Left. This is one of those sequels whose flashbacks, featuring footage from the original, make the newly shot scenes look even worse. And there are several flashbacks. Bobby (Robert Houston), a survivor of the first film, has one while talking to his shrink. Ruby (Janus Blythe), the mutant chick who left her cannibal family behind and now goes by Rachel, has one. And Beast has one. That’s right, the surviving dog from the original. He has a flashback. Complete with wavy-screen transition.

Now, if Craven had kept up that level of goofiness — “What the fuck, let’s give the dog a flashback” — Hills Have Eyes Part II might’ve been a subversive comedy, something Craven did for the money but couldn’t resist making fun of. But no, the movie pretty much settles into being a standard slasher flick, with little of the ingenuity displayed by the killers and their prey in the first movie. There’s a gratuitous topless scene, and another shower scene wherein the character is strategically towelled — it’s the sort of thing that takes you out of the movie as you say to yourself “Okay, that actress stipulated no nudity; that one didn’t have a problem with it.”

The aforementioned Bobby has invented some sort of superfuel for motorcycles, and he and his posse of motocross whizzes are supposed to attend a race in the desert not far from the events in Hills Have Eyes I. Bobby chickens out, and the rest of the gang, including Ruby/Rachel, goes without him. The roster includes a blind psychic (Tamara Stafford), several near-indistinguishable preppy-biker dudes, and a token black guy played by Willard Pugh in the same self-loathing shufflin’-darkie mode he’s displayed in everything I’ve seen him in.

The mutants are ruled now by a fearsome, whispered-about character called The Reaper, whom we barely see (big John Bloom plays him, and an uncredited Nicholas Worth provides his voice). If there’s any fun here, it comes from getting reacquainted with good ol’ Mars (Lance Gordon) and especially Pluto (Michael Berryman). Craven seems to have given Berryman the go-ahead to go all out, hopping from rock to rock, cackling and snarling. Hell, I want Berryman to be in every movie. It’s too bad either the 2006 remake or its 2007 sequel (which, by the way, kicks this sequel’s ass) couldn’t have made room for a Berryman cameo.

This was the first of three times Craven sequelized himself, and it’s safe to say he hadn’t quite learned how to do that yet. Here he throws away most of what made the first film shocking and relevant, and cranks out a typical mid-’80s cheesefest less interesting than even the lamest Freddy Krueger sequel. It’s possible that Craven has been the most monetarily successful of the horror directors who all got their start in the ’70s, but he’s also likely the most inconsistent — his stuff is either great or crap. This is crap.

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