The Film: The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984)
The Principles: Written and Directed by Wes Craven
Acted by Michael Berryman, Kevin Spirtas, Tamara Stafford, Willard E. Pugh, Janus Blythe
The Premise: Taking place some time after the events of the first film, The Hills Have Eyes Part II brings us right back into the desert and into the territory of the same bombing range dwelling, neanderthal cannibals we dealt with previously. Our main group of characters this time are a team of motocross bikers driving out to the big race. When their bus gets stuck next to an abandoned ranch, they hold up for the night only to be picked off one by one.
Is It Good?: This is as bare bones a slasher movie you can get and have it still be somewhat competent. Watching the film seems almost like a chore due to its rough pacing, threadbare storyline and treatment of its characters and dialogue. The casting department here put together a fine looking bunch of young actors, but for the most part only a handful out of the near dozen have any screen presence. Most of the scenes where we wind up just sitting around shooting the shit seem uncoordinated and the tone often veers towards being annoying and obnoxious.
We start off with a first act that basically is made up of flashbacks and exposition going over the events from The Hills Have Eyes. We see Bobby, Ruby, Beast the dog and Pluto the cannibal return and among them are a wild and crazy group of dirt bike kids who just love to talk jive and joke around. Everybody’s a comedian until the bodies start dropping like flies when the group starts getting hunted by the titular hill-dwellers. By the end we only have two survivors going up against the last of the cannibals. It all goes out with a bang, but still regrettably manages to end with a whimper.
Allegedly Wes Craven disowned this movie and said he only made it to pay the bills. The script seems very thrown together and slapdash, and it’s pretty clear during our ensemble scenes that a lot of improv was being granted. What really cripples the film is how much the actors are overdoing it and how they just seem to be let loose in their scenes. Michael Berryman makes the film watchable and he uses enough restraint to offset the rest of the cast while still being interesting and energetic. I think this one could have benefited from a little more attention to detail. It’s still watchable, but there are many times where the film winds up being a wash.
Random Anecdotes: Considering the amount of flashback footage of the original The Hills Have Eyes nearly adds up to 20 minutes, this film’s actual running time is about an hour.
This marked another collaboration between Harry Manfredini and Wes Craven only a year after working together on Swamp Thing.
Opening credits: “The following film is based on fact.” Closing credits: “The characters and incidents portrayed and the names used herein are fictious.”
Cinematic Soulmates: Friday the 13th Part 2, Jeepers Creepers II, Pumpkinhead, Tourist Trap, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, …and Then It Happened