The Hills Have Eyes 2

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Starring Michael McMillian and Jessica Stroup. Rated 18A.


The Hills Have Eyes High Tension director Alexandre Aja's kinetic remake of Wes Craven's 1977 mutants-versus-tourists shocker–was one of the top two horror flicks of 2006, right up there with the humanoids-versus-cavers epic The Descent . So I was hoping to not miss any of Martin Weisz's sequel as I wheeled around the underground parkade at Metrotown on the film's opening day. But the vacant spots proved harder to find than good acting in Dead Silence , and by the time I got to the theatre the opening credits had passed, along with, seemingly, a plot point of some portent. Still, 10 seconds after taking a seat I did witness a tough-as-nails U.S. army officer get skewered like a shish kebab.

It's clear from the get-go that THHE2 isn't going to skimp on the nasty stuff. (It was written by the taboo-bashing Craven and his son Jonathan, after all). And setting the action at a desert training ground for gung ho National Guard troops means the firepower quotient is thoroughly ramped up. Unfortunately, arming the good guys with high-powered, state-of-the-art weaponry doesn't build empathy with their life-or-death struggle against evil monstrosities, and that's always been the attraction of this franchise.

Apparently, the few survivors from last year's film never bothered to warn anyone about the cannibalistic clan, so it's a total surprise to the soldiers when, two years later, they start getting picked off. Unlike in Aja's gripping remake, we aren't given enough insight into the victims to care much about their plight–they're just uniformed fodder for brutal rape and grisly death. The only thing the lowly Hills 2 has going for it is the grossness, ferocity, and superhuman strength of the rampaging mutants. I mean, these guys put the ugh in ugly; they make the original's Michael Berryman look like a hunk. Early on, when one of the hapless guardsmen gets torturously pulled through a small cave opening that he never should have fit through, it's clear the army is up against formidable opponents. But retreat is not an option for these brave men and women, and calling for reinforcements would have been way too cowardly (and smart).

Oh, yeah: if anybody cares, the film can be seen as a metaphor for the consequences of U.S. military intervention. Since the mutants are byproducts of Cold War nuclear testing turning against the government that created them, they're kinda like the Taliban. But how much political allegory can you take while watching a long-suffering mutant chop the forearm off a guy dangling from a cliff, then use it to wave bye-bye to him?