Review: The Hills Have Eyes 2

Leave it to Wes Craven to be handed the golden opportunity to make the same movie twice, only to create a monstrosity of cinema with both attempts.

Sent on a mission to investigate the disappearance of military officers in the New Mexican desert, a team of hapless National Guard grunts infiltrate the mine-riddled mountains of the area. What begins as a frivolous exercise in military detail quickly becomes a horror show when the cannibal mutants in the radioactive locale step out from their subterranean lair to munch on the intruders.

Curse my black genre heart if you must, but Alexandre Aja's 2006 take on Craven's 1977 drive-in chiller "The Hills Have Eyes" was a superb piece of horror remake filmmaking that effortlessly topped the original in every way, with the possible exception of cultural stealth. It was lurid, unstoppable, and when it rang the guitar-strumming Leone bell in the climatic moments, I was completely taken with its mental illness. Craven's film was a horror landmark, but it never dared to move in the bold, unspeakable ways Aja created.

Of course, that was Wes Craven 30 years ago. The Craven of today is a horror-film prostitute, passing himself around to the highest bidder to cash in on his past genre success. The last time Craven made "The Hills Have Eyes II" (IMDb listing) was in 1985, at his lowest career point. Now rethinking the material for 2007, it's evident the filmmaker hasn't learned from his past mistakes. At least there are no dog flashbacks this time out.

It should be noted that Craven didn't actually direct this new shade of "Eyes." Martin Weisz is the name attached to the film, and it's one we all should forget immediately. A former student of music video overkill, Weisz has nothing to bring to the big screen but the same old tired bag of false scares and flash cuts, and there's not a lick of directorial personality to anything unfolding in "Eyes II."

Perhaps Weisz isn't even a real person at all, but a pseudonym for Craven and 20th Century Fox's B-film outfit Fox Atomic. "Eyes II" isn't so much a motion picture but a highlight reel of pain; an 85-minute-long ceremony of fanged studio cash-in mentality and material miscalculation that ends up the complete opposite of the film that preceded it.

Co-written with his son Jonathan, Wes Craven has stripped away all the raw style, menace, and unease of 2006's "Eyes" to create a moronic blood offering to his own ego. "Eyes II" is a stingy production, seemingly filmed around one single spot of desert with the most nondescript team of actors you'll ever meet. To combat the production's quickie origins, the Cravens have taken a nasty piece of cinema and made it ugly just so it has some ounce of notoriety.

"Eyes II" is a bloodbath, but not in any kind of audience-participatory way that can make horror so much fun, or even in the social commentary realm that Craven often hides behind. This sequel is a straightforward ghoul; aiming to upset the audience any possible way it can through scene after scene of viciousness and anger that doesn't originate from a sick mind, but a desperate and polluted one.

There was a nauseating rape sequence in the first "Eyes;" it's repeated here in the sequel, only now with a perverse attention to the spittle-covered joy of the mutant assailant. Limbs are chopped off and bodies flung from great heights, but instead of swimming in the tension of the moment, the Cravens and Fox Atomic linger on the money shots of blood. The first film also introduced the mutants as creatures born of American Cold War neglect; the sequel turns them into pro wrestlers with alien tongues and garbled dialogue, of course with the exception of the words "bitch" and "die."

Hey, I'm all for twisted patches of horror, and I always like my blood entree with a hearty side of terror, but where "The Hills Have Eyes II" goes, you will not want to follow. Wes Craven would like the audience to think they're having a nightmarish good time, but I don't recall repeated internal urgings to run screaming from the theater in unstoppable bad-movie agony in the recipe for fun.

Filmfodder Grade: F

Wes Craven sucks. He's way overrated.

-- Posted by: Jim at July 17, 2007 2:17 PM