I love horror films, providing there is evident skill and purpose to the horror. But when I come across a movie that misuses the genre and exploits it, with no apparent artistic competence, I get very angry. 2007’s The Hills Have Eyes II is such a film.
Alexandre Aja’s reworking of Wes Craven’s original The Hills Have Eyes was an assured, interesting film, with a spiky visual flare and some deliciously nasty scenes. This sequel, zoomed into production after the first film, is also nasty, but in a way that fails to recognise the intelligence capable of nastiness, and in the end it just becomes plain nasty.
The opening of the film is repugnantly graphic and rather offensive. A woman in an awful condition (she is tied up on a dirty wooden floor and her toenails are very long, suggesting she has been like this for a long time) gives birth to a deformed baby. The term ‘gives birth’ puts a bit of a nice gloss on the whole ordeal. What actually happens is that someone grapples around inside her and rips the child out. Everything is deliberately engineered to show the pain the woman goes through during this sequence.
After this hysterical beginning, the film plods on rather slowly. Soldiers are sent to the ex-nuclear testing site where the first film was set. They are killed one by one by the same deformed people as before. The soldiers are fairly unlikable, apart from the two female members of the group. They are clever and resourceful – and therefore suffer unimaginable horrors. In a couple of scenes – the film’s most shocking and sadistic – one of these women is repeatedly raped by the ‘monsters’.
Of course, this film isn’t bad because it shows us awful, disturbing things. It’s bad because it’s dreadfully written and doesn’t do anything with its scenes of horror. Any attempts at political commentary (something Craven, who co-penned the screenplay with his son, is usually good at) are lazy and never amount to much. The whole purpose of the picture is to bring to life debased, sexually violent horrors in the most gruesome detail possible. It goes without saying, sadly, that the characters who suffer the most prolonged and sickening ordeals are generally women. Make of that what you will.
The Hills Have Eyes II (2007), directed by Martin Weisz, is distributed on blu-ray and DVD by Twentieth Century Fox, Certificate 18.