*. The pattern holds. I wasn’t a big fan of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and his follow-up The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985) was truly awful. Alexandre Aja’s 2006 The Hills Have Eyes was a movie I much preferred to the original. This sequel to that movie (the hill folk are again mutant fallout from atomic bomb testing) isn’t as good as Aja’s movie, but it’s not bad, and much better than Craven’s own Part II.
*. Craven again produced here, and co-wrote the screenplay along with his son Jonathan. It’s a good story, not content with just rehashing the same idiot plot of young people who take a wrong turn and end up in slasher country. Instead, the army has been sent in to clear out Area 16, but before they can finish the job the mutants come out of their mine shafts and start killing people off.
*. Caught in the middle of this mutant uprising is a squad of National Guard soldiers on a training mission. They’re well armed and at least partially trained so you’d expect them to be able to hold their own. Alas, they are only partially trained, and that part not very well. Despite being introduced to us by way of an absolutely insane live-fire training exercise (seriously, that’s not even close to being realistic), they still seem pretty shaky on the basics. Not only do they leave their rifles lying around for anyone to pick up, they also lean them up against walls and tables. This is something you never do with an army rifle. You always lay it down flat. Even I learned that much basic training.
*. Well, we might say, despite their being green, they do as well as the space commandos in Aliens and Leprechaun 4: In Space, with the former being a movie very much on point with this one. Only Craven didn’t want tough-ass real soldiers but kids with guns instead.
*. I point to the connection not just for the soldiers-vs.-monsters idea, but for the way these particular mutants have a thing for nasty breeding practices. The movie begins with a really harsh birth scene where the chained mother is immediately killed by the chief mutant for some unspecified reason. Later, one of the two female National Guards will be raped in an equally horrific manner. So you could think of the mutants as like the Xenomorphs.
*. A note on rape. The original Hills Have Eyes had a scene where rape is threatened, and some see it as fitting in with the whole rape-revenge exploitation genre. The rape is taken further in Aja’s film, especially in the unrated version where it goes on for quite a bit. In this movie they ramp up the violence more, as the victim is beaten badly at the same time. Yes, the villain is killed — several times over — at the end, including having his crotch smashed in with a sledge hammer not once, not twice, but three times by the woman he raped, but it’s still a road I wish they hadn’t gone down. There’s just no need for it here.
*. The two female leads are, by the way, named Missy and Amber. Ah, man. Really? Plus it was standard around this time to have our heroines in horror movies running around in tight (and often wet) tank tops. Which happens again here, even though there’s no reason for Amber to have taken her combat shirt off.
*. I liked finding the guy in the basement of the outhouse, but that was another point I had trouble with. How did her get in there? “Who would do this to someone?” Napoleon asks. Good question. Also why?
*. What’s with Colonel Redding? He seems to know an awful lot about the mutants and their lifeways, yet is out stalking them with no back-up. There’s a hint with the Area 16 label that the government is up to some kind of dirty work out in the desert that they’re keeping secret, which may also explain why, given all the people the mutants have been killing, the area isn’t notorious for being the Bermuda Triangle of New Mexico.
*. Why is it that Papa Hades (he’s the biggest and baddest mutant, played by the same actor who played Papa Jupe in the previous film) can only bark out words like “Die!”, “Cunt!” and “Bitch!” and nothing else? Is this a result of years spent watching Divorce Court, which according to Aja’s movie is the only program they like to watch?
*. Apparently the mine shafts were designed by the same people who did the caves in The Descent. I was reminded of that (much better) movie a lot here. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the shift from the bright sunlight of Aja’s movie to so much darkness. In the earlier film the mines were just a place to go through to get to the town on the other side. Here they’re where we spend most of our time. Which isn’t as much fun.
*. Critics dumped on it, but I don’t know what they could have been expecting. It’s not great, but it’s head and shoulders above most of the other horror trash that was coming out around this time. They built on Aja’s work and managed to take things in a slightly new direction. Most of it is pretty conventional, but entertaining all the same. It also seems to have done pretty good box office. But there has, as of yet, been no sequel. I’m not sure why. Franchises have sputtered on with far less fuel in the tank.