The Hills Have Eyes Part II - The Hills Have Eyes Part II (Blu Ray) [Arrow Video - 2019]
Appearing eight years after the original, The Hills Have Eyes Part II was very much more of a conventional slasher with a desert setting. The film was once again helmed by horror legend Wes Craven, and while it’s far from a masterpiece & often decidedly silly stalk ‘n’ slash venture- there are some neat trap based kills, amusing dialogue, the odd effective jump, as well some fairly eerier atmospherics. From Arrow Video here we have a recent Blu Ray reissue of the film- featuring a new commentary track from the always great slasher collective The Hysteria Continues, and a new documentary about the film. The Hills Have Eyes Part II appeared in 1984- just after the golden age of the slasher genre and just before it’s decline. It was the fifth feature film director by Caven, and was made the same year as his genre re-defining masterwork A Nightmare On Elm Street. Sure THHEP II lacks the originality, distinct flair, and impact of Elm Street- but it’s pacey enough( after the multiple flash-backs), and there’s a good enough blend of kills, thrills, and atmosphere present.
The film takes place eight or so years after the original film- it follows a group of motor cross bikers taking a short cut through the desert, to once again be preyed on by the cannibalistic Klan of wildmen. The group of bikers features one of the original female members of the family, now all civilized, and the dog from the first film. And what unfolds is predictable-if-enjoyable enough desert-based slasher.
I first saw this on VHS back in the 1980s, and then picked it up on DVD some years later- and from memory, I recalled the whole thing been somewhat underwhelming and flashback ladened. But as The Hysteria Continues were involved in this reissue I thought I’d give it another try…and I’m glad I did. So first off yes, there is far, far too much flashback in the first quarter of the film, and most ridiculous of these is one from the dog….but once you are past these things do improve. And we get an effective-enough slasher- with a selection of fairly memorable- if a little cliched characters- a jiving talking African American mechanic and his leather headband wearing girlfriend, a blind girl with second sight, and few cocky bikers. The kills mainly focus in on traps and the like- and these well not terrible gory are again effective enough. The films setting with its big bouldered desert, creepy rundown barns, and underground red light lit areas is often fairly atmospheric, with some good enough jumpy moments. The pace of the whole thing keeps fairly active, as the victims do first one dumb thing after another leading them to get killed. The film is scored by the long-time Friday 13th composer Harry Manfredini, and while in places it sounds very F13 like , we do get some nicely woozy horn work later on in the film. So The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is far from a classic of the slasher genre, and neither is it one of Craven’s best films- it’s just an entertaining enough slice of mid 80’s slasher craft- that if you grin 'n' bare the flashbacks, does develop well enough.
Moving onto this new presentation of the film, and the extras. First off the new print looks good enough, though nothing spectacular for a mid-1980’s film- though this may be down to the mainly desert setting & later night shot scenes. Extras wise, as mentioned in my introduction we get a commentary track from the four-man slasher collective The Hysteria Continues- and as we’ve come to expect from the guys it’s another great track- that’s chatty, informative, funny & replayable. They go from discussing the film's funding by a British company, the infamous flash-backs, the genre snobbery about the film. Before moving onto talking about various actors and their other roles, they also discuss the two remakes, and Cavens wider filmography focusing in on similar lessen respected films. All in all, it’s another great track from the guys- once again highlighting both their great chemistry, passion for the slasher genre, and general well-researched background info.
Next, we get Blood, Sand, and Fire: The Making of The Hills Have Eyes Part II- this is a just over half-an-hour doc about the making of the film- it features a blend of interviews with two of the film's actors Michael Berryman, and Janus Blythe(who played the civilized wild women). production designer Dominick Bruno, unit production manager/first assistant director John Callas, composer Harry Manfredini – it’s a well balanced and at times fairly heartfelt doc, that covers the films production issues/ it’s budget, actors on set memories, and the rush to get the soundtrack done.
Lastly, we get an original trailer- which also uses flashbacks from the 1st film! and a gallery of production stills.
All in all, I certainly enjoyed this reissue much more than I was expecting- as surprisingly The Hills Have Eyes Part II was a lot of trashy & eventful slasher fun, added to this we, of course, get the great commentary track & the neat new doc. If like me you’re a slasher fan, and had less than fond memories of this film- I’d say give this new Arrow Video release a go, as I think you may be pleasantly surprised.Roger Batty