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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Hills Have Eyes 2

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The cannibalistic mutants in the Hills Have Eyes movies reside in an arid, uninhabitable piece of desert terrain in New Mexico, where they feast on wayward travelers, partly for revenge and partly for survival. Yet as Wes Craven's original has been spun into sequels, remakes, and sequels to remakes, the revenge part hasn't been mapped out clearly, and that may be the films' greatest undoing. It's important to remember that these mutants were ordinary people transformed by nuclear testing, and that they're victims, too, with good reason to work out their frustrations on the rest of humanity. The premise for The Hills Have Eyes 2, the quickie follow-up to Alexandre Aja's skillful but gratuitous 2006 remake of Craven's original, seems like a perfect opportunity to give the mutants their due, since it deploys a group of military people back to the scene of the crime. And yet it stupidly does the opposite, reducing the mutants to mine-dwelling freaks who murder and rape because, well, that's what they do.

After a prologue so repugnant that it's unworthy of description, the film touches down in New Mexico's "Sector 15," where a handful of military technicians are busy installing a top-secret surveillance system. When a group of National Guard trainees are dispatched to the site to deliver equipment, they're shocked to discover the men either missing or dead, and they start combing the surrounding hills on a search-and-rescue mission. What they don't realize is that the mutants are luring them into various traps designed to kill the men and abduct the women for (ugh) breeding purposes. So it's up to these unseasoned and often downright inept soldiers to fight their way out of trouble.

Directed by music-video veteran Martin Weisz—in the future, can producers please look elsewhere for talent?—The Hills Have Eyes 2 assembles the most motley group of incompetents this side of a Police Academy movie, yet somehow misses the laughs. But humorlessness is probably the least of the film's problems, lagging behind amateur-night performances from the no-name cast, a homogenous visual palette (and from a music-video director, no less!), and lots of pointless sadism. Like the Aja remake, the film puts a heavy emphasis on disgusting makeup effects and visceral action sequences; whole characters are defined with less detail than the mutants' unkempt toenails. The mutants may or may not live to kill again, but at this point, these fussed-over grotesques are better suited to wax museums than movie theaters.