*. This movie is almost universally reviled, though it does have a few champions. I’m not going to defend it here but just address a couple of the points that come up most often in what’s been said about it.
*. In the first place, it’s often remarked how surprising it is that Wes Craven turned out this turkey around the same time as he was making A Nightmare on Elm Street. The chronology is significant. Craven wrote and shot this movie before Elm Street but then the project was stuck in limbo because of budget issues. Then, after Elm Street went on to become a hit the studio asked him to go back and finish it. Unfortunately they didn’t want Craven to shoot any more footage, so he had to pad things out to 90 minutes by including flashbacks to the events of The Hills Have Eyes.
*. Not a great way to make a movie. And indeed Craven thought it was garbage. As I think everyone else did too, including Michael Berryman, who returns as Pluto. I don’t think it even had a theatrical release. Still, it’s hard to figure why this was such a dud when Elm Street was so fresh and creative. My guess is that Craven never wanted anything to do with it and was only taking the job to make money. It shows. Hack work can still be really good, but you can tell when a director doesn’t have his heart in a project, and since Craven was writing the script too the movie was doubly snake-bit.
*. The other point that’s usually trotted out about, and against, this movie is that the dog from the first movie, a German Shepherd named Beast, experiences one of the flashbacks. People hoot at this, and I think Craven may have thought of it as a joke, but I’m not sure what’s so crazy about it. Dogs are intelligent animals. Indeed, I thought Beast the smartest “character” in the original film (as he is again here). Dogs have memories. They can remember people for years. They can also dream in some fashion, as anyone who has watched a sleeping dog twitch its paws in its sleep can testify. So why is it so crazy that the dog here has a flashback? Beast remembers when he attacked Pluto in the first movie, which seems a likely thing for him to remember when he catches that character’s scent here. I don’t find this far-fetched at all. I was more mystified by how Pluto learned to ride a dirt bike so well.
*. I’ve often read reviews of The Hills Have Eyes that mention its sense of humour. I’ve tried to see this in it but have never come up with much. This movie, on the other hand, has more obvious comic flourishes, providing further evidence both of the way Craven was moving (toward Elm Street and Scream) and that he didn’t take this movie seriously. It even begins with some voiceover narration saying “The following film is based on fact.” Meaning it’s based on the fact that there was a previous movie called The Hills Have Eyes. None of which was based on fact.
*. The plot is a real mess. Bobby from the first film is introduced talking about his experiences in the desert to a psychiatrist. Then we find out that he’s invented a new kind of fuel to supercharge motorbikes. And is linked with Ruby, now living a normal life under the name of Rachel. Then the motorbike crew (which includes a Black couple looking for a disco in the desert and a blind girl in love with one of the bikers) hop on a bus and head out to the same desert as the first film, only without Bobby, leaving one to wonder why they even bothered to re-introduce his character in the first place. In any event, they take a shortcut because they missed Daylight Saving Time. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Ruby/Rachel warns them but before long they’re in crazy country being picked off by Pluto and Jupiter’s big brother, a guy named the Reaper.
*. I think that’s all about right. But to be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention. In most ways it’s a retread of the first film, which is something Craven doesn’t even try to hide. He even has the bad guy fall into a nearly identical trap at the end, despite his protestation that “Reaper don’t get fooled like Papa Jupe! Oh no!” Oh no? Oh yes.
*. If it’s similar in outline to the first film it has none of the same edge. No threatened baby. No cannibalism. No mock crucifixion. Just a bunch of nonsense that, as I say, I had a hard time staying interested in. Plus the lighting is execrable and it’s hard to see what’s going on.
*. “Depressingly shoddy” was the verdict of Kim Newman. I’d just call it ugly, dark, and dull. Not a movie to hate, or to laugh at, but just to avoid.