In 1984 Wes Craven released his seminal classic A Nightmare on Elm Street and finally became a household name. However it wasn’t the only movie directed by him to come out that year. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 had already been shot a year or two before hand but was never completed due to budget concerns. I’m not sure as to whether that means the backers thought Craven was going wildly over budget or they just ran out of cash but either way the film had only spend about $700,000 so it wasn’t exactly Cleopatra. Once Freddy Kruger hit the silver screen though the producers decided they did want to finish the film with Craven after all, so they persuaded him to get back in the edit suite and finish the it off.
If you’ve seen Part 2 then you’ll be aware that when Craven put it together he found that he didn’t actually have enough footage to make a story of feature film length so to bulk things up a bit he added numerous “flashbacks”, ie scenes from the first movie, to get it up to the required running time. I knew this from years gone by and I have to say I remembered it being worse than it actually is. There are four flashbacks in total which maybe add up to about seven minutes (not the half an hour I had in my head) and they’re all pretty early on. They are rather stupid though. The first two come from the first film’s teenage survivor Bobby (Robert Houston) who has the first at a psychiatrist’s office and the second when he’s about to drive off to the desert with his motocross team. The flashbacks freak him out so much that he doesn’t go in the end and that’s the last we see of him in the film so that in itself is ridiculous. I get the feeling that enough money was found to shoot the scenes with Bobby in order to add in those flashbacks. The scenes with Bobby look completely different from the rest of the film, don’t have much of the main cast in them and most importantly, like I said, he’s not in the rest of the film!
The next flashback comes from one of the group driving into the desert ,Rachel. It transpires, via her flashback, that she is the wild woman Ruby from the first film who switches sides because she like babies or something. Now, not only is she Bobby’s girlfriend but seems to act and dress like an all American middle aged soccer mom. This all seems rather farfetched to me. Most shocking is how much her teeth have improved since living out in the desert as a cannibal back in 1977. I know Americans are obsessed with haviing great teeth (or is it that us Brits aren’t obsessed enough) but that really is quite the turnaround.
The final, and indeed the most ludicrous flashback comes from Beast the German Shepherd. Yes, not since Bouncer in Neighbours for an entire episode dreamt about the cast doing a Christmas panto, has there been a more stupid look inside a dog’s mind. And this is in a serious horror film. The daftest thing is the flashback is back to the good day Beast had in the first film when he tore out eight-ball headed and sweet-natured cannibal Michael Berryman’s throat. This is in total contradiction to what we are seeing on screen as Michael Berryman is alive and well and having a great time trying to kill and eat passers by.
Anyway as you can probably tell all these flashbacks make the beginning of this sequel a bit of a mess, However once we get past them there is just about a whole film waiting for your viewing pleasure. Within this though is there anything to suggest that if Craven had been allowed to finish the film how he originally intended we would have another great Craven classic?
Nah… its terrible. And Craven only did it for the money.
All sequels in some way exist “for the money”. If the first film made a lot of cash then a sequel will get green lit. However there is a difference between wanting to continue the story or revisit the characters because your interested in them still, with the box office returns of the first film giving you chance to do that, and just doing it because some producer is offering you a brown paper bag full of dollar bills. Its the difference between France Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part 2 and, well, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part 3. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 clearly has no reason to exist. Its great that they’ve followed the first movie with some of the same of the same characters (even if they were dead at the end) especially Beast who was obviously the best actor in the original. However there is little reason for them to come back in the first place. Why go back to the exact same part of the desert where the cannibals were in the first movie? It makes no sense.
However there is a lot that doesn’t make any sense. We all know that characters in horror movies tend to do stupid, stupid things. Its why whenever there is even the slightest suspicion that they’re all being killed off one by one, a group of friends will split up to cover more ground. But this lot are a bunch of simpering morons. When a cannibal steals one of the motorcycles from their bus, two guys give chase to the point that they are totally alone and are beaten to death. After this when it is clear to the remaining gang that there is something horribly wrong (and not just a prank – readers note: IT’S NEVER A PRANK!!) upon finding an outside shower, one of the girls decides that washing the dirt of the day off is a great idea. Getting naked and wet in the pitch black of a desert where you have even the suspicion that you might be surrounded by cannibals is NOT a good idea.
The stupidest character of all though has to be Cass who is blind. I’m all for people overcoming their disabilities but if I had a blind friend who said they were just going to go for a look around in a town with an abandoned mine I would seriously question their judgement. Off Cass goes though, feeling her way around the edges of never ending drops of doom and touching human skin used as wallpaper (I’m guessing there, it was very hard to say what the point of that scene was). If Craven’s idea was to get the audience worried for this poor girl’s vulnerability then he failed; its just ridiculous.
Anyway the rest of the film pretty much goes through the motions. There’s a new big bad cannibal called The Reaper who acts just like Jupiter in the first film, and it all comes down to Beast having to sort it all out with his teeth. The final survivors come up with another trap to beat the big bad just like in the first film and the whole enterprise comes across as a waste of everyone’s time, including mine. It is, however, mostly coherent which is surprising considering it was never finished. Only cave girl/soccer mom Ruby/Rachel seems to disappear before the final reel and is never heard of again. Presumably Craven never got to shoot her final scenes, either that or she just got fed up with the whole enterprise and wandered off into the desert. Who could blame her.
Obviously The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 killed the franchise. There is a film called Mind Ripper which is sometimes known as The Hills Have Eyes Part 3 but the only connection is that Wes Craven is the producer and it is mostly set in the desert. It does star Lance Henriksen and a young Giovanni Ribisi but its not enough. After Part 2 I feel sometimes life is just too short…