After reading that Wes Craven had disowned this film, my expectations were low to say the least. But after watching it, I have no idea why it has such a bad rap, as I consider the 0% on rotten tomatoes being completely unjustified. In fact, if I had to choose a favorite between this film and the first The Hills Have Eyes, I’ll choose this one for every single time. I feel it’s a better film for multiple reasons, but primarily is that it plays out very much like a Slasher. There’s a primary teen cast, a dread location, inventive kills, even a known killer. Though that’s where the correlations with the slasher genre ends. My only real issue with the film the incredibly weak antagonist The Reaper, who suffers from being critically underdeveloped.
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 opens with Bobby Carter (Robert Houston) reliving the events of the previous film while talking a with a psychiatrist. Bobby has devolved a new super fuel for racing, but is unable to go to a race to show it off due to his crippling fear of the desert. Rachel, formerly know as Ruby (Janus Blythe) goes in his place along with the rest of his race crew, Roy (Kevin Spirtas), his blind girlfriend Cass (Tamara Stafford), Hulk (John Laughlin), Harry (Peter Frechette), Foster (Willard E. Pugh), Sue (Penny Johnson Jerald), Jane (Colleen Riley) and Beast, now owned by Rachel. On their way to the races in the desert the group realizes that they forgot about daylight savings and will now be late for registration. To make it to the races on time they decided to cut through the desert along a dirt road, but their buses gas tank springs a leak forcing them off the road. The group finds an old abandoned mine, and choose to stay until they can find help. That night Pluto (Michael Berryman), who miraculously survived the last film, attack Rachel, who’s easily able to fight him off. But he manages to then escape into the desert. The rest of the group, with the exclusion of Cass doesn’t believe Rachel’s story. Until Pluto steals one of their bikes out of the back of the bus, resulting in Roy and Harry chasing after him. After Harry is dismounted by a trap, Roy catches up to Pluto and manages to subdue him, but Harry is killed due to another trap in the meantime. On their way back Pluto leads Roy into a trap where he’s caught and knocked unconscious by The Reaper (John Bloom). As night falls Pluto and The Reaper stalk and kill the remaining crew…
First and foremost, what I enjoyed over the first film was the characters. While sure they were just as developed as the first film, but this time they were more like-able. With Cass by far being the best character with the best lines, such as “I’m blind, not handicapped.” I’m a fan of strong, intelligent female characters which is one of the reasons I’m such a fan of slashers, as that genre is swimming in them. My next favorite is Rachel aka Ruby, who is in the same vein as Cass. Though I did find her weak death off-putting as a woman who repeatedly showed she could hold her own was cast off with little fan fair.
Also the music was much better this time around. Which really helps when it comes to building and maintaining tension. While none of the music stands out in my memory, in the moment it was effective.
Last was the setting. With the addition of the mine, the accompanying buildings, the bus and desert serve as a better Dread Location over the previous films use of the camper and desert. The expanded area gives much-needed variation of the characters to explore and to be stalked in. While much takes place in the desert, as well it should too much to added variation adds greatly to films atmosphere.
Final thoughts, much of my enjoyment comes from just how close this film flirts with being a Slasher. To the point where I can’t be 100% sure that it isn’t one, as it features so heavily of the genres most popular tropes. The victim pool falls in line with what’s needed, the characters are stalked and killed, there’s a breast part, even a tour of the dead. What keeps me from declaring it a slasher is the lack of an enticing incident, unless you want to count the last film or the characters leaving the main road for a short cut. Also it’s close correlation to the previous installment, which in my opinion is not a slasher. The direct continuation of the story really hampers The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, but still manages to improve on its predecessor. Like all good sequels should. 7/10