In the 1970s, Wes Craven directed two landmark horror movies – The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream followed in the 80s and 90s. That’s an impressive legacy. Yet somewhere in between The Hills Have Eyes and Elm Street, Craven struggled to connect with horror audiences. Neither Deadly Blessing nor Swamp Thing lit the horror world on fire. And a belated sequel to The Hills Have Eyes might have derailed Craven’s post-Freddy Krueger momentum if anyone had seen it. Though Craven started filming the sequel before Elm Street, the production ran out of money. But Elm Street’s success ensured a short theatrical release for a cobbled-together The Hills Have Eyes Part 2. Does Craven’s poorly received sequel manage some campy charm like a certain other flashback-heavy slasher sequel from the 1980s? Or is it still just a bad movie?
Several years ago, an inbred family of mutant cannibals savaged the Carter family. Now a group of motocross bikers make the same mistake. On their way to a race, they opt for a shortcut through a patch of the Nevada desert where the surviving members of the cannibal family waits is waiting for them.
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 Lacks Any Sort of Campy Charm
With little in the way of money but renewed studio interest, Craven clearly didn’t have the time and resources to film new scenes. Instead, the director leaned on flashbacks from the 1977 original. Like Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is heavily composed of old footage. Arguably, Craven even manages to ‘one up’ the Christmas slasher sequel in terms of the silliness of these flashbacks. With a lot of time needed to fill, Craven gives each returning character a lengthy flashback. Even a dog has a flashback to the original movie. Yes, a dog has a flashback. Both horror sequels cover a lot of familiar ground. Somewhere along the lines, however, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is a campy cult classic. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is not.
But being boring for 80 to 90 minutes is inexcusable.
Today, non-horror fans probably recognize the ‘Garbage Day’ meme. Nothing from this sequel approaches that level of ‘laugh out loud’ stuipidity. Unfortunately, Craven’s sequel isn’t just a poorly stitched together movie. It’s a bland and, by and large, boring effort. And that more than anything else is the movie’s gravest sin. Low budget horror movies can be stupid, ridiculous, and/or preposterous. As along as audiences can suspend belief for 90 minutes or so and have fun, stupid is just fine. But being boring for 80 to 90 minutes is inexcusable. And even when the sequel ditches flashbacks and settles into its own story, the action is poorly paced. A complete lack of scares only exacerbates the pacing problem. Specifically, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is missing any sort of atmosphere and occasionally well-placed jump scares.
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 Neither Bloody Nor Scary
Similar to his feature length debut The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes is a disturbing, violent exploitation movie. Comparatively, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is a remarkably bloodless affair. Rather than tap into the same gritty violence of 70s exploitation movies, Craven’s sequel halfheartedly parrots 80s slasher movies. If you grew up in the 80s, the images of on the back of the VHS cover promised inventive, gory traps for the sequel’s motocross bikers. Nothing in this sequel remotely fulfils that promise. Though Craven’s sequel isn’t actually that messy from a technical perspective, it’s never aspires to more than dull slasher kills.
Comparatively, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is a remarkably bloodless affair.
Genre fans will be pleased to see veteran character actor Michael Berryman (The Devil’s Rejects, Death House) returning as Pluto. Only Robert Houston and Janus Blythe from The Hills Have Eyes return for the sequel. Of course, Berryman’s return makes absolutely no sense. For a sequel jammed with so many flashbacks, Craven sure hopes you don’t remember what happened to some of the characters. Aside from the retconning it takes to bring Berryman back, Robert Houston and Janus Blythe both reprise their roles as Bobby Carter and Ruby (now going by Rachel), respectively. And that’s about as interesting as the casting gets. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 replaces Papa Jupiter with his older brother, The Reaper. Apparently, The Reaper was hanging out in that other cannibal-infested desert in the first movie. Nobody else in the sequel registers above body count or survivor status.
Craven’s Belated Sequel Feels Particularly Uninspired
Among its worst sins, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is really just a boring movie. Yes, you can tell that this was an incomplete movie rushed into release, and filled with flashbacks to pad out the runtime. But not even the inclusion of a dog’s flashback lifts the sequel to absurd levels of fun. Nothing here approaches the meme-worthy Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. If the original The Hills Have Eyes was a brutal 70s exploitation horror movie, its sequel is a lazy, derivative slasher movie.