Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Hills Have Eyes Part II '84



The shortcut. They never learn, do they? The Hills Have Eyes Part2 uses that stupid decision to place another group of young adults in harm’s way. A pack of bike racers, hoping to score a fortune off a formula gas created by Bobby, the tormented survivor from The Hills Have Eyes, decide to get off the main highway to save some time, finding themselves within the sun-scorched, desolate, dry-as-a-bone peaks and valleys of some godforsaken desert region home to the inbred cannibals who live in them there hills. The kids are a happy-go-lucky bunch, cracking wise, playing practical jokes, and, for a while, unaware of just how much deep shit they’re in. The dog (the character, probably not that particular dog) from the first film knows all about those mangy, filthy, savage creeps who lie in wait, our group stopped off at an old, abandoned mine, (along with a hole that caused gas to leak out of the bus, they're lost because of getting off the main highway), and a young, blond, sweet blind woman herself can sense something (her hearing heightened is an advantage for the group). The biker guys have no idea what they’re messing with. Not a clue. And as they ride off on their Yamahas, the cannibal inbreds are waiting..this is there domain, and these *city slickers* are in for quite a rude awakening.

While The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is considered Craven’s worst film (a lot of its notoriety derives from the excessive use of flashbacks, and, in particular, the dog’s flashback has created a vitriol that has given it an intensified critical lashing), I have to be honest, I find it entertaining. When “guilty pleasure” is thrown around, it normally associates with films like The Hills Have Eyes Part 2. I find a film fun, for whatever reason, regardless if it is Ishtar (I’ve never seen it) or Blood Freak (a film I didn’t find unintentionally funny as much as boring), I can’t be apologetic for doing so. I consider that pointless. Ultimately, you can be ashamed for liking a movie the status quo consider appalling (including Craven, the director) or just accept that your tastes may not always align themselves with others. Regardless, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is considered a waste of celluloid, a disastrous example of how low Craven’s career could sink, and uninspired garbage. Every once in a while I find a film with such a reputation a bit less terrible than the crowd that have risen up in number against it. Sometimes I’m one of those that dislike such a film, but rarely do I not find something of value or, at the very least entertaining, from even the worse kind of junk. 



Cass, keep your ears open?

I had caught The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 on rotation with flix or one of those Showtime + channels. I had read in detail how rotten the movie is, so much to my surprise, I didn’t find it reprehensible. Look, I’m not about to just sing its praises, but what fascinates me about this film is how much it feels like a Friday the 13th film in the desert. Sure Harry Manfredini’s score (it has such a familiar ring to it that rarely differs from movie to movie; even Steve Miner’s House sounds a lot like Friday the 13th, with slight arrangements that are a bit different) gives it that feeling, but there’s a way the killings are shot, very much in the slasher-vein (characters apart from each other taken out one at a time in various bloody ways, such as a machete slice to the throat (a nasty piece of work, too), boulders crashing down upon a victim mocking the inbreds, a crossbow arrow launched into a chest, a girl crushed in The Reaper’s monstrous bear hug, and a victim pulled under a bus (what makes this work is how he’s tripped, his feet pulled, as he tries, futilely, to hold onto the bus to no avail, pleading for help in horror). Also, bodies fall out of open doors just like the victims in Friday the 13th movies. I do believe the memorable strings and “drops of water” score that is so utilized during the finale of Friday the 13th Part 2 when Amy Steele attempts to fool Jason into believing she’s his mother is almost exactly the same as the score applied to the scene where Cass (Tamara Stafford) is trying to evade The Reaper within a mine shaft.

Another Friday the 13th connection is the casting of Kevin Spirtas, as Cass’ beau, Roy, who would later be the heroic potential boyfriend of the Friday the 13th: The New Blood’s telekinetic heroine. He concocts a trap for The Reaper that involves using the super formula gas the group was carrying in their bus. He sits out a portion of the film due to his being hit across the head by a machete (the handle, I guess; it looks initially like the strike killed him) thanks to The Reaper.

The fact that Cass is blind evokes the Audrey Hepburn classic Wait Until Dark (not sure that was Craven’s inspiration for her creation in his script, but it sure felt like it to me), in how she has to use the senses she does have, not to mention her intelligence, to avoid the same fates as her friends.
 I guess this film’s major asset is the ass-kicking Janus Blythe, the lone returning member of the original film (besides Robert Houston, in essentially a cameo appearance, and Berryman), who exhausts the horror cult icon, Michael Berryman, during their fights. I think the film ultimately does her a disservice as she provides the strength and perseverance of a super-heroine, standing courageously against those who desire to kill her, only to be discarded in rather lackluster fashion (she is thrown to the ground, her head hitting a small boulder, never to be seen again). Because her character survived the first film, while a disapproving member of her murderous cannibal family, and had carved out a new life for herself in a civilized existence, instead of Bobby being the character who once again must confront the psychos he outlasted previously, Blythe’s Ruby is the one who will try and duke it out.

Berryman is just as repulsive, but not as heinous as in the first film. He’s more of a follower of the Reaper, although he gets star treatment in the cast, his character too often is on the receiving end of a beating or made to look like a fool. He’s once again, as fate would have it, defeated by the same canine character who took a bite out of him in the previous film, Beast. His fate is rather painful.
The film has traps and wait-and-assault attacks towards the innocents, but I think the lack of villains (only two inbreds instead of like the usual four or so) will be viewed in disappointment. The Reaper is rather just a burly man with bad hygiene and raggedy clothes (the make in this film is piss poor with one bulging spot the lone inbred feature presented; Berryman just looks like a freak as always, not a victim of inbreeding), whose girth is his only menacing quality. He’s rather defeated easily, and Berryman, for the majority of the film, is the victim instead of killer. The murder set pieces, I don’t think, will quite satiate gorehounds looking for the bloody goods, besides the throat slash. Missing is that really nasty, unpleasant assault, too, and if this were Craven of the early-to-mid 70s, the blind girl would have been just as susceptible to getting whacked as anyone.

Of the cast, Peter Frechette (a consummate television actor with a memorable face), Penny Johnson (been a little bit of everything from television to movies), and Willard Pugh (Robocop 2) are all perhaps, along with Blythe, the most recognizable from the cast of victims. Frechette is full of enthusiasm and goofy spunk, while Johnson (wearing a bandanna) actually shows her tits. Pugh has that dorky quality that makes him somewhat endearing. This is a rare chance to see two black actors as dead characters walking. They’re a couple that get into an argument when Pugh sees Colleen Riley taking a shower, ogling her, and saying nonsense about not remaining monogamous, earning Johnson’s ire.

I think what I like about this film more than anything is the setting. Craven gets a lot out of the miserable, isolated, deserted mining lodge, mine, tunnels, and surrounding hills (boulders are just everywhere as are the scattered green of desert trees). I think maybe the nonchalant, hearty nature of the kids when stuck in the middle of nowhere might be a turn off to viewers who I figure expect them to be in a more serious state of duress, but because they are such free spirits who thrill-seek, I guess this reaction to a situation that would totally freak me out is an ordinary response for them.


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