March 25, 2007

Movie Review: The Hills Have Eyes II

This is a good example of what horror fans have to put up with. Horror fans all know about the good horror films that get everything firing on all cylinders, from acting, to story, to the all important scares. Horror fans all know about the bad horror films, the ones that are so inept that they wouldn't scare a child and are plagued by a bad story and even worse acting. Then there are films such as The Hills Have Eyes II, which for my money does a lot of things right, but is tempered by the presence of some awful dialogue and acting. It has a story that we have seen before, but builds enough tension and delivers enough gore to keep us, or me at least, interested until the inevitable conclusion.

I guess the big question is whether or not The Hills Have Eyes II is bad or not. The answer isn't all that simple, as there was much that I enjoyed about it, while there was plenty mixed in to damper my enthusiasm. Bad acting permeates the entire film, something that seems to be a staple of horror films so I can forgive some of it. Sadly, the dialogue does nothing to help matters, as there are a veritable truckload of bad lines being delivered by bad actors, most noticeably in the first third of the film, it does get a little better the further in you get. This improvement is probably due to the periodic culling, as our heroic band gets whittled down to the inevitable heroes (who you should be able to guess pretty early on, you may even be able to guess the order in which they expire).

The story, such as it is, has no connection to the first, save the fact that the mutants are still inhabiting the old atomic bomb testing facility in New Mexico. The survivor(s) (I cannot remember who survived that night of blood) of the earlier film are nowhere to be seen. Instead of a family stumbling across the cannibalistic mutant feeding grounds we are treated to a group of mismatched National Guard trainees out on their first mission. Hmmmmm...... a group of raw military kids? Sounds like fresh meat to me.

The kids are sent out to assist a scientific research team that has been charged with setting up surverillance in the long abandoned hills. Of course, assistance will be the least of their worries as they arrive to an empty camp. The scientists had run into some problems already, shown prior to the opening credits. It does not take long to get a good, up close and personal taste of blood and gore as the scientists are dispatched, setting up the real mission of the fresh faced kids.

The rest of the movie has the shrinking group of recruits shrinking as various mutants pick them off one by one. There is plenty of blood and jump scares to be had, and I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. The gore is plentiful supply as the kids are chopped up, bloodied, and battered, while the mutants are also dispatched in a variety of gruesome ways.

Despite the terrible dialogue and atrocious acting, the movie still got to me. It crawled under my skin and helped build up this feeling of tense dread. I can't say that I cared one way or the other whether or not all of the good guys were killed, but I was still into each kill. It is the kind of horror movie that you watch for the blood and just what will happen next.

Martin Weisz directed this outing. He does have a good grasp of stylishly presenting the gore and building tension, but he still needs to work on his overall directing and how to create an overall stylish and freaky movie. That is something that Alexandre Aja succeeded at on last year's The Hills Have Eyes. If only the film had lived up to the fantastic teaser trailer, you know the one, it had a couple of mutants dragging bodies across the desert. That was a brilliant piece of marketing.

Bottomline. I liked this movie, not a whole lot, but there was enough tension and gore to satisfy me. Look past the horror genre staples of bad acting and dialogue and you will find a fun exercise in blood letting. Then there is the opening birth scene....

PS: Did Michael McMillan, playing Napoleon, remind anyone of Topher Grace? I though the subtitle for this should have been Eric Forman Joins the Army.



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