Having a partner who is quite the fan of the horror genre is nice, it means I'm dragged to see films I might not otherwise bother with. It is also bad, as I'm dragged to see films I might not otherwise bother with.
The Hills Have Eyes 2 (Hereafter HHE2) is actually quite good. It doesnt so much build on the first movie as just retell it underground with guns. Now for those of you who're thinking Alien here, think again. Whereas Aliens was an amazing movie that allowed large numbers of the evil creatures to face the might of future-modern military technology, this is not 'What would happen if we sent in the marines?' more 'Lets give the mutants more pretty women to rape only put them in army fatigues'.
The movie plays on several of the genre staples. First our outpost of scientists investigating the initial incident is attacked and cut off. Second an unsuspecting group of young national guard trainees go to deliver supplies ot the area and discover the situation. Unable to raise help they abandon protocol and go on a search & rescue mission for the missing people.
The movie doesn't try to get bigger than it is and makes only a few wider political jibes, an example of which is that the troops are young and stupid and in a 6 week training course for Afghanistan at the outset of the movie.
Characters are fairly 2D aside form our 'leads' this lets you identify who's going to get mulched pretty easy from the outset. We've got a 'scientific' peacenik who will obviously become a man through a trial of blood, an angry Mexican who will have to come to terms with his violent nature and a smart, capable black man who - True to Spike Lee's nightmares, will probably die. Their tough black sergant is a good guy trying to do right who cares for his platoon add in two women, one white and one hispanic, one of whom has a child, and you're left wondering what the hell kind if platoon this is if not steretypical. All it needed was a chinese guy and a brazilian kid and they could have summoned captain Planet to help.
Stereotypes aside the movie does ok at the outset. We get the obligatory, silence followed by loud noises, claustrophobic camera angles and gory, bloody deaths by an unseen enemy. The director was obviously aware that the unseen is more scary than the average monster in the hallway so they play on it until they simply have to start showing bad guys.
The movie doesnt do anything particularely new in the way it uses sound and visuals, camera angles are standard, the score is predictable and imemorable but most of the acting is solid enough to let you sit through it. The only production gripe would be the pacing, the movie ramps it up, then slows it down, then ramps it up and so forth. This wouldnt be bad if we used the sloe time to do some characterisation or something but it's wasted in the main. I found myself shifting in my seat awaiting the next firefight.
There is of course the obligatory 'signature shock scene' which competing horror movies now have to have. Saw has it's games and voice modulated speeches, Chainsaw massacre has it's preserved skins and Hills has mutant rape. For those of you who havn't senn the first movie, buy the Directors cut on DVD. The mutant rape scene is actually rather unsettling, it's realistic without being too shwoy and just probable and horrid enough that its revolting, the production crew obivously realised this was the Hills main selling point, being as it was what critics focussed on.
So Hill 2 features just such a scene, thing is this one is predictable and is lead up to. It doesn't feel like a spontaneous evil act by the monsters, just something stuck in to give the viewers a 'shock factor'. That plus it's filming just make you feel a bit uncomfortable rather than shocked, kind of like having a sex program come on when you're watching tv with your parents.
Overall the film is your average easter monster movie. Predictable, trading on the innovations of the first movie while adding nothing new fairly run of the mill. However solid acting and a decent(ish) plot and background story bring it just a head over the monster munching competition.
Wait for the directors cut on DVD.