The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984)

01/10/2017 17:09

Film: The Hills Have Eyes Part II

Year: 1984

Director: Wes Craven

Writer: Wes Craven

Starring: Tamara Stafford, Kevin Spirtas and John Bloom



This is a movie that I’m not sure how I first learned that it existed. I’ve seen it a couple times and I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan. Since I’ve not covered it on the podcast and it falls in a year that ends with 4, I’ve made it my rewatch for my Foray through the Fours.

Synopsis: a group of bikers, heading to a race, become stranded in the desert and find themselves fighting off a family of inbred cannibals who live off the land.

This starts by bringing back one of our survivors, Bobby (Robert Houston) while in is a session of therapy. His psychiatrist is played by David Nichols. He is recounting the traumatic events which we see through flashbacks. The doctor informs us that Bobby is successful in the moto-cross business and there is a race coming up where he will unveil the new fuel he has created. The problem is that Bobby is terrified of going to his race, since it takes place in the desert. He is worried about what happened last time will happen again.

We then shift to a woman sleeping. She wakes up to find she is alone. We learn that her name is Cass (Tamra Stafford) and she’s blind. Driving up on his dirt-bike is Roy (Kevin Spirtas). He wears a mask and he moves around the building with a ladder. He climbs in through the second-floor window, trying to scare Cass. She is already up and knows it is him. Her senses are heightened and this plays in later.

They then go to his racing team’s garage. There we meet Hulk (John Laughlin). They go inside where we meet with Foster (Willard E. Pugh). They talk about the plan for the new fuel and how they’ll unveil it at the race. The next to arrive is Harry (Peter Frechette). He drives up while riding a wheelie and crashes. A bus then comes next with Jane (Colleen Riley), who is dating Harry. There’s also Sue (Penny Johnson Jerald) who is with Foster. Last is Ruby (Janus Blythe), but she is going by Rachel now. She points out that Bobby is struggling with today. Roy offers to speak with him. They can see how visibly terrified he is. Rachel will go in his stead.

The bus then hits the road. Their first stop is to a dog kennel to collect the surviving dog from the previous film, Beast. They also collect money from a woman there as Beast is being used for a stud. This will pay the entrance fees to the race.

They hit the road but ran into a new problem. They’re behind schedule when Foster points out that they forgot about Daylight Saving’s Time ending yesterday. The group suggests they use Harry’s method, which is a shortcut to make it. Rachel is against it, but they convince her it will be fine. What makes matters worse for her is that Harry is making jokes about the family who had the run-in with the cannibal family, not realizing that it was Bobby and Rachel.

In the desert, Harry thinks he sees a flash, but can’t be sure. They end up finding a random sign that is welcoming them. It is misspelled though. This road takes them to an abandoned mine. They stop as the road busted a hole in their gas tank and they’re on empty. As they investigate, they see that someone has been there. Rachel fears it is her family, but the others laugh it out. They do learn the truth and that she might be more correct than they realize.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that I think there are good elements. The premise in general makes sense and how they get stranded out here does as well. There are questionable decisions, some contributing to this being a slasher film while others are stylistic.

Where I’ll then start is with the set up. It makes sense that Bobby would be in therapy over what happened. I also can’t blame him for not wanting to go back out into the desert after what happened to him. This runs under an hour and half long, so I’m not shocked that they used archived footage here to fill in parts. There is an issue there though, one of them is having the dog, Beast, have a flashback. This gives it notoriety. It does feel like padding, because I’m not sure why certain scenes were shown to us. Having a moto-cross racing team getting stranded in the desert though, that works.

Something I’ll say here, I found it interesting that Bobby came back just for these opening scenes. My guess is that he did this as a favor to Wes Craven, who did come back to write and direct this film. I think that it’s fine with having Rachel aka Ruby venture out with this team. There’s a solid group of young adults with Roy, Cass, Hulk, Foster, Harry, Jane and Sue. We get to know everyone enough but they’re here for body count.

Let me then focus on one of our main characters, Cass. Having her blind is an interesting choice. I think Stafford’s performance for that is solid. She doesn’t see it has a handicap. She focuses on other things with hearing and even though this is a bit farfetched, it isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility either. The logic she uses makes sense. This is also an interesting duality with Rachel, who grew up out here and focuses on certain things that others don’t. It is set up enough where I buy it when Cass goes off on her own.

Now something I’ll say here, I love it when films bring back the actors to reprise roles. One that I have an issue with is Michael Berryman coming back as Pluto. I believe he was killed in the first one. It doesn’t ruin it since I don’t think we ever see the dead body. I’m glad that he was cast since I’m a fan of his. There’s another issue with our new villain leader, The Reaper (John Bloom). It’s not his size or performance. Those are good. The issue is that he’s supposed to be the older brother of Jupiter. That doesn’t make sense to the story that we’re told. I think there could have been more care put into this.

I’ll finish discussing the acting here then. I’ve already said that Stafford was solid in her performance. I do like Spirtas as her boyfriend and our new main lead. Laughlin, Pugh, Frechette, Riley and Jerald are good to round out our group who gets stranded. I’ve said my issue with Berryman coming back, but him and Bloom work as our cannibals. The acting here is fine across the board.

All that is left then is filmmaking. Let’s start with the positives. Setting this once again in the desert is good. That isolates our characters. Using this old, mine shanty town is great. The use of the tunnels is as well. The cinematography and framing are both solid. I’d even say that for the most part, the effects worked. The issue is that they use too much archive footage to pad out the runtime. They also fill in backstory by having Harry mock what happened previously. My issue there, if the story was out, then they would know that Bobby at the least was involved. It just feels like it was included without thinking about how it would. Something else to include here, Harry Manfredini did the music and this feels like something he used for Friday the 13th. It made me smile, but it lacks originality as well.

In conclusion, this is a movie where Craven tried to do something a bit different while keeping it in the vein of the original. Stranding a team of moto-cross riders was good. There are plot holes, including how would this team get stranded in that same stretch. I can be a bit forgiving though for that one. Having one of our leads as a blind person adds to the dynamics. I’d say it is hit or miss with filmmaking. The cinematography, framing and effects were good. The soundtrack has charm, but it also is taken from the Friday series. The editing has issues as does the archive footage used. This still is a decent enough slasher despite the issues that it has. I cannot recommend this to everyone though, you must be into a bit lesser quality.


My Rating: 5 out of 10