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Dustin Putman

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Learn more about this film on IMDb!The Hills Have Eyes II  (2007)
1 Star
Directed by Martin Weisz
Cast: Michael McMillian, Jessica Stroup, Jacob Vargas, Daniella Alonso, Lee Thompson Young, Ben Crowley, Flex Alexander, Eric Edelstein, Reshad Strik, Michael Bailey Smith, David Reynolds, Derek Mears, Tyrell Kemlo, Jason Oettle, Gaspar Szabo, Jeff Kober, Jay Acovone, Archie Kao
2007 – 89 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for strong violence and gore, and for language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 24, 2007.
1985's "The Hills Have Eyes Part 2" was a pointless and widely reviled sequel to the cult 1977 original, going so far as to feature a flashback from the point-of-view of a dog. History repeats itself (minus, thankfully, the canine shenanigans) with "The Hills Have Eyes II," a dopey, superficially-related sequel to the jolting 2006 remake. That all four films are, in part, the doings of Wes Craven—he directed the first two, produced the remake, and co-writes this one with son Jonathan Craven—is to assume that he is a master of the horror genre when he wants to be and a shameless, greedy hack the rest of the time. Prematurely rushed into production and seeing release exactly twelve months since the last one, "The Hills Have Eyes II" is off-putting, uninspired and filled to the gills in bad ideas.

The first bad idea is the premise itself, set two years after the events of Alexandre Aja's predecessor. This is known by way of an opening title card, and not because there is any other direct relation witnessed thereafter. An area of desolate New Mexico desert known as Sector 16 has become a testing site for the U.S. military, and a group of National Guard trainees are sent in to deliver supplies. Once arrived, the unit discovers an empty camp and, like any smart-thinking human beings, decide to wander around and investigate until deformed mutants pop out of the hills to slaughter the intruders.

Though it goes without saying, it must be said anyway: commercial and music video director Martin Weisz (making his theatrical introduction) is to Alexandre Aja (filmmaker of the predecessor and 2005's "High Tension") as Alan Smithee is to Steven Spielberg. Weisz, working from a substandard, straight-to-DVD-level script, believes that throwing gallons of blood, guts and brain matter around on the screen is all that it will take to match 2006's "The Hills Have Eyes." What he carelessly doesn't take into account are the very elements that made that one so effective—foreboding atmosphere, suspense, personality, and realistic, sympathetic characters who were developed beyond average slasher movie fodder. "The Hills Have Eyes II" has none of these things, trading in an identifiable family put into a hellish situation beyond their control with a dozen or so argumentative military men (and women) who are akin to one-dimensional rejects out of a low-rent "Starship Troopers" sequel.

Repetitive, dull and bankrupt of narrative momentum—when the ending comes, prepare to be taken off-guard by its anticlimactic abruptness—"The Hills Have Eyes II" is eighty minutes of stick figures in uniform walking around the rocky hills and shaft mines, getting picked off one at a time until there are only three protagonists left. Yes, there's a fair share of viscera, and a rape is thrown in for the hell of it, but even so the picture is still a snoozefest. The characters are so lazily sketched that none of them receive more than one personal trait, and the only one that can be remembered by name is Napoleon (Michael Millian), the underdog-turned-hero of the piece.

The rest are differentiated by their odd resemblances to better-known celebrities; there's the Latino female (Daniella Alonso) who looks like Rosario Dawson, the hot-headed Latino male (Jacob Vargas) who looks like Michael Pena, the white girl (Jessica Stroup) who is an Alicia Silverstone double, the black guy (Lee Thompson Young) who is a dead-ringer for Taye Diggs, and a cowardly recruit (Ben Crowley) who could be the fraternal twin brother of Steven W. Bailey (he plays the friendly gay bartender Joe on "Grey's Anatomy"). Why should the viewer care about any of these people when half of them are too smarmy to like and the other half are so poorly conceived that they cease to exist beyond their physical manifestations in front of the camera? And then there are the savage killers, who have been downgraded from cannibalistic, disfigured victims of nuclear testing to run-of-the-mill monsters. With all of the tromping around in the mines and caves, the film brings to mind 2006's "The Descent," which it attempts to ape but doesn't know the first thing about how to achieve that movie's scary, unsettling sense of unrest.

"How are we gonna get out of here?" one of the entrapped recruits frantically asks his comrades as sunlight rays shine prominently through the boarded slats behind him. Yes, it's as asinine as it sounds, but it goes perfect with a motion picture that wouldn't know the key ingredients to a successful genre pic if it got slapped in the face with them. Congratulations, Wes Craven: you have managed to bury a revamped franchise a second time with another terrible first sequel that will be forgotten about in a couple years' time. If "The Hills Have Eyes II" is to gain notoriety for anything, it is the invention of one of the most laughable methods of murder ever captured on film: death by leather wallet.
© 2007 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman