'The Hills Have Eyes, Part II: Special Edition'
(Robert Houston, David Nichols, Penny Johnson Jerald, Michael Berryman, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2007) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: The hills are once again alive with the sound of screaming in Wes Craven's hugely entertaining follow-up to his own groundbreaking 1977 'The Hills Have Eyes'.
A motocross team on their way to trial a new super-fuel head out across the desert lead by Rachel, who, unbeknownst to the rest of the group, is a survivor of the cannibal clan which menaced the Carter family several years before.
Opting to take an ill-advised shortcut across the desert, the busload of youngsters drive straight into the path of the remnants of Rachel's demented cannibal kin - the menacing Pluto, and a hulking, blood-hungry brute by the name of The Reaper.
Blu-ray Verdict: Trying to get over his fear of the desert, Bobby, (Robert Houston) agrees to go on a dirt-bike expedition with friends Roy, (Kevin Spirtas) Cass, (Tamara Stafford) Harry, (Peter Frechette) Rachel, (Janus Blythe) Hulk, (John Laughlin) Foster, (Willard E. Pugh) Jane, (Colleen Riley) and Sue, (Penny Johnson) and get lost on a side road.
Searching an abandoned house, Pluto, (Michael Berryman) and Reaper, (John Bloom) attacks them and begins systematically killing them one by one. Gathering every ounce of strength they have as a group, they fight back against the murderous pair.
As one of the most maligned films in the genre, this wasn't expected to be all that good. Made by Wes Craven immediately prior to his smash-hit 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', 'The Hills Have Eyes, Part II' diverges from the grim tone of its predecessor in favor of fun action-horror thrills and spills replete with mutants, motorbikes, and - oh yes - dog flashbacks!
The fact that its mostly just a carbon copy of the first isn't really that damaging, as it allows for a constant stream of action scenes throughout the film.
The dirt-bike and ensuing foot chase through the mountains through various caverns is a wonderful action sequence. The large amount of suspense played out in the cavern sequence in the end was a great highlight, as the novel idea of having the main character in that sequence being blind was able to make some new ideas out of a clichéd experience.
It's quite nice to see something that had been taken through all of the possible explorations, but then to add a great new gimmick that actually adds some suspense to the proceedings.
In fact, it's quite nerve-wracking to see them wander through the situations unaware of what's out there and there's no way for it to change.
The fact that it changes styles over the first one and becomes more of a stalk-and-slash film is a nice change of pace and adds a little more to the film.
Now playing Devil's Advocate here, even though it wasn't all that bad, there's still a couple things wrong. The plot is a virtual retread of the first one, and the situation to get them involved with the group is a step-by-step repeat of before too!
Ergo, it really doesn't try anything new here and instead goes mainly for new traps and more characters. The fact that it's so maligned is based mostly around that and it's cheese factor, which doesn't bode too well for most movies.
Indeed, this one tries to rise against it with a couple of great moments, but the fact that it's so cheesy and clichéd is the major source of complaint. That said, and as I hope you can tell, I didn't have too many problems with this one overall.
In closing, 'Part II' is far better than it's reputation will give it, but don't compare it to the original and it might be interesting. Take it on it's own merits and you might find yourself enjoying it a lot more than you would. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
Blood, Sand, and Fire: The Making of The Hills Have Eyes Part II - brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with actor Michael Berryman, actress Janus Blythe, production designer Dominick Bruno, composer Harry Manfredini and unit production manager/first assistant director John Callas
Original Theatrical Trailer
Reversible Fold-Out Poster
Limited Edition 40-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amanda Reyes and an archival set visit from Fangoria
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
'The Hills Have Eyes, Part II' Original Movie Trailer