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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Hills Have Eyes 2

It’s hardly worth going to a horror movie these days when all you have to do is turn on the tv to see more than enough gore and tragedy in real life as reported on the news every day. Let’s face it. We live in one sick world. Better yet, I’ll just state the obvious: this is one twisted country, in and out of politics. Politics has Bush, Cheney, Rice and the rest of that criminal coven to stir up their bloody plans on the war front, but wherever we live we may very well have people as “normal” as your next door neighbor hacking up strangers and storing their partially eaten body parts in the Hotpoint® 18.2 Cu. Ft. Top-Freezer Refrigerator they won on “The Price Is Right” back in 1991. Don’t laugh. It could happen. Ask Jeffrey Dahmer’s landlady. Just this morning, before I went to the Essex Cinemas to see The Hills Have Eyes 2 I read a news story on the Associated Press newswire about two men in Atlanta, high on methamphetamines and deeply depressed over receiving news that they had both become HIV-infected, decided to commit suicide together by using a circular saw and turning their living room into something resembling an Andy Warhol spin art painting during his “red period” after they cut off their own arms expecting to bleed to death. Just their luck, they survived, but barely, and unlike survivors of horror in movies like The Hills Have Eyes 2, these guys aren’t likely to be as easily forgotten in the time it takes for the credits to roll. That’s the problem. Life is getting so “out there” and tv laps up any behavior, especially the worst kind, as entertainment (Yes, Brit, I am talking about you. And you too, Lindsay, so wipe that smug look off your face ~ and put down that drink!). We’ve come to expect… no, demand that the crimes we get fed on the news are titillating with immorality, perversity, scandal, pain, something that separates it above the rest of the swamp full of crimes that stink up the airwaves but hardly arouse. So that’s the same deal with filmmakers in this genre too. It’s tough when you have to top yourself by making a sequel to a movie that wasn’t exactly lightening in a bottle to start with. A bite in the neck from a vampire is hardly worthy of a shiver after you’ve watched someone get their eye cut out and the optic nerve snipped with a pair of dull scissors as in Hostel, so where can we possibly go from here? We’ve lost our innocence to gore, and, like virginity itself, once it’s gone it is gone for good.

And that leads us ~once again~ to the mutants we see roaming the sands in
The Hills Have Eyes
2. This installment of the family drama series (as I like to think of it) has our sweet mutant family as always minding their own business in their desert home, trying to get along in their dustbowl of a canyon where they live a life sparser than an Amish family during an August drought. You can’t really blame the mutants for being cranky. They didn’t ask to be born mutants. It was the Army’s testing of Atomic bombs back in the 1950s that made the area radioactive and turned its residents into the lumpy bumpy grumpy group it is today. I’m sure they’d be happy to feast on KFC and Burger King like the rest of America’s mutants, the middle class, but there is no access in or out of the1,600 square mile area sectioned off by the Army as unsafe and where our mutants are stuck with nothing to eat but an occasional drifter or soldier that wanders by. And all they get is grief for it!

Here they are, in The Hills Have Eyes 2 minding their own business when an entire regiment sets up camp over the mutants’ nest of underground tunnels and caves. Naturally the mutants are going to want to eat them. I mean, after all, people are all they know there is to eat. It’s not like the Army has been dropping them in parcels full of Cheetos and Diet Dr. Pepper or offering to help them out with medical treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Actually, maybe that last part is just as well, but it still doesn’t mean that a few boxes of Twinkies now and again wouldn’t be appreciated.

The next thing you know, just because Grabber (Gáspár Szabó;
Sobri) gets grabby and makes lunch out of a couple of the original scouts for the camp, the new recruits on this training mission suddenly go all mishugana on his butt and then the whole movie turns into an extermination mission on the soldiers' part. Worse is how the filmmakers cloyingly try to get you to care about the soldiers’ lives while they totally ignore the hardships and suffering of the mutant clan.

Yes, poor PFC Missy (Daniella Alonso;
Hood of Horror) has been separated from her son by being here, but while she boo hoos about it while constantly replaying a sappy little video he made for her on her iPod, she forgets to remind us that she wasn’t drafted and forced into this separation in the first place, so she should just suck it up and be a soldier instead of a crybaby. Meanwhile, there is the squad’s leader, appropriately named Hades (Michael Bailey Smith; The Hills Have Eyes), who is bound to go fast as these things inevitably require following a formula, and The Hills Have Eyes 2 is nothing if not formulaic. Deaths generally occur by rank on down, and the targets are fairly obvious before they happen. Sadly, being a member of a minority is a surefire way to ensure being dispatched. Sure enough, the Asian soldier, Han (Archie Kao; Fast Money) is hardly around long enough for the ink on his contract to dry, and the African American and Latino soldiers might just as well take numbers like in a butcher shop. Lee Thompson Young (Akeelah and the Bee), Flex Alexander (Snakes on a Plane), and Reshad Strik (making his big screen debut) are circling the drain without even knowing it, and the way-too-testosterone-fueled white boys who seem to delight in the manly-man roughness of calling the more erudite and educated member of their unit, PFC "Napoleon" Napoli (Michael McMillian; the baby-faced star of tv’s “Saved”), derogatory names are bound for payback as well because, as in all formula films, it is the meek (or is it the geek?) who shall inherit the earth, or, at least in this case be the real butt-kicking mutant slaying, woman-saving god of the picture.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 may be formulaic, but it also quite educational for those uninformed about mutants. Unlike the freshly-scrubbed, well-groomed and sexy as Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry mutants we’ve come to expect, these are more of your garden variety mutants… if your garden is growing in a radioactive New Mexican desert. The big thing about these folks is that even though they seem to have a limited grasp of human speech, and can only grunt out an occasional couple of words between their rotted and incidental teeth, they do seem surprisingly good at using satellite image tracking equipment and other military devices they find along the way, so it is really rude to call someone a “dumb mutant” just because they look like they have heads that resemble half-deflated volleyballs.

I heartily recommend that people go into this film with their eyes wide open and look at it from the
point of view of the put-upon desert-dwellers. I am convinced you will come away with an entirely different perspective and a much better enjoyment of the movie. Why? Because you’ll have some laughs along the way, and The Hills Have Eyes 2 is definitely not a movie to take too seriously. It’s popcorn for the mind, and that’s about all. Enjoy it for whatever ghoulish satisfaction having a blonde bimbo sticking her fingers in the open skull of an attacking mutant gives you and leave it at that. It’s a blood good time for fans of gross out cinema. Not so much for the rest of the movie-going audience.

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