2006’s The Hills Have Eyes remake was a major improvement over Wes Craven’s overrated and poorly paced original which featured a compellingly freakish Michael Berryman as its only memorable aspect. Alejandra Aja directed the remake with an admirable panache, staging some thrilling and stylish kill scenes while displaying a startling amount of apathy for his major characters. Like many previous films in the “survivalist horror” subgenre (Saw, Hostel, Wolf Creek), The Hills Have Eyes took a handful of protagonists and dumped them in a foreign land where they were captured and tortured by culturally and morally backwards outcasts. Thematically, parallels with the War in Iraq can certainly be drawn, and The Hills Have Eyes 2 takes this theme one step further by actually using a group of American soldiers as its protagonists, facing them off against a group of nuclear fallout freaks that, for all intents and purposes, might as well be wearing turbans and planting I.E.D.s.
A group of U.S. National Guardsmen are in Yuma Flats, New Mexico, installing cameras around the perimeter of a military installation. After several seemingly endless scenes of poorly written military banter, the mutant folk appear out of the red rocks to do some killin’ and maybe a little rapin’ if time permits. A reckless gun fight ensues and the Sarge gets caught in the crossfire. Strangely, the fact that he’s still breathing doesn’t stop his fellow soldiers from attempting chest compressions. Despite their best efforts the Sarge expires. Leaderless, the soldiers are forced to fend through cave-ins, explosions, and a ride down a big metal pipe that seems shoplifted straight from The Goonies, all the while getting picked off one-by-one by the slobbery, knobby mutants.
For the record, the mutants in The Hills Have Eyes 2 aren’t nearly as cool or memorable as they were in Aja’s effort, as they almost burst with latex that makes them look as awkward and uncomfortable as Michael Chiklis in The Fantastic Four. Soldiers are bloodily sucked down holes in the desert, or dropped from the tops of cliffs to burst like balloons on the rocks below, and the make-up by Nicotero and Berger (of the seminal KNB, the makeup team behind Sin City, Evil Dead 2) is really pretty phenomenal at times. But the kill scenes are staged awfully far apart and most of the time The Hills Have Eyes 2 is a boring retread of other, better horror movies. Predictably, it all comes down to the soldiers finally fighting back and killing off all the mutants before meeting up with the big Nintendo boss mutant and figuring out what combination of special moves will deplete his life until he’s dead. In this case it involves driving a bayoneted Army rifle through the boss mutant’s open maw in an undisputed sign of military dominance. Unpleasant and uninteresting, The Hills Have Eyes 2 is a movie that makes Starship Troopers 2 look like a James Cameron project, a sequel of vast ineptitude that shouldn’t have made it to a storyboard, let alone a movie theater.