Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Hills Have Eyes 2 (1983, Wes Craven)

1985, directed by Wes Craven

Well, if you watch this back to back with the first film, it doesn't come off too bad. It's infinitely more lightweight from the get go and the filming of some early scenes is so fucking slack, you can't believe it. Two or three set ups at most in scenes that establish a significant number of characters, accompanied by many takes (the bit where the black girl first gets off the bus) which make you go "if the director cared, he would have done a second take". Yet, the atmosphere is halfway "Hills Have Eyes" desert spooky and half early eighties, "Friday the 13th" type slasher. "Friday the 13th" is a good reference point, as Harry Manfredini also scored this movie - unlike the first movie's enjoyable music, this one is a typical Harry Manfredini score, meaning it sounds identical to "The Children", "Zombie Island Massacre", Craven's own previous "Swamp Thing" and, of course, every single "Friday the 13th" film. Seriously, the desert flats in this movie are painted out as the west coast "Crystal Lake". And, admittedly, the location (similar, but not the same as the first film) is still a very spooky place, especially now it has it's large mine shaft. Also, Kevin Blair from "Friday the 13th Part Seven: The One With the Telekinetic Girl and the Gay Cast" is in this as well, sucking as hard as everyone else.

Some of the logic is so fucked - the script is just too lax to care. In the first movie, the family broke down for at least a reason. In this one, the bus (yeah schoolbus) springs a leak and they just RUN OUT OF FUEL.

If you look at this movie in the context it was released in (1985, a year after "A Nightmare On Elm Street") it's pitiful. Craven shows barely any of the flair he brought to "Nightmare...", which is strange even if you learn "Nightmare" was filmed the year after "Hills Have Eyes Part II", but released first - it'd be a massive progression, if I didn't think the problem with this was ultimately that Craven didn't give a shit. It was nice seeing Bobby in the opening, flashing back to the first movie - continuity like that is still pretty effective. But the actor playing Bobby (I think Robert Houston is his name), looks stoned out of his mind for his two "scenes" here. The first scene, flashback aside, is just the same thing repeated - discussion between Bobby and the psychiatrist, ending with Bobby pulling a face like "heh, shows what you know...".

The idea here is, of course, to start a franchise. A series like Sean Cunningham's "Friday the 13th" series, or Wes's later "Nightmare" or "Shocker" films were intended to become. This movie wasn't a hit when released and, to be honest, that's not fair. I think it's at least as fun as "Friday the 13th Part 2" (but not "Part 3" or "The Final Chapter") and pretty fun overall. The vast continuity with the first film makes for a nice "back-to-back" feel.

It's not Craven's worst film (ever seen "Vampire in Brooklyn" ? "Music of the Heart"?), but it isn't great. It manages to swing my favour by acknowledging and somewhat recapturing the agoraphobic feel of "Hills Have Eyes", but I have to admit its nowhere near as imaginative, compelling or engaging as "Nightmare on Elm Street", "People Under the Stairs" or even the original "Hills Have Eyes". You could do worse, but a lot better too.

A later release poster with an alternate title ("II" instead of "Part II") and an acknowledgment of 1984's "Nightmare on Elm Street"

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