Tuesday, September 7, 2010

THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 (1985) - to quote Rockwell, "somebody's watching me"

here's a rad music video from our friend Rockwell that has nothing to do with anything

The opening crawl explains that the film is based on fact. What “facts” are we talking about here? Oh yeah, the fact that The Hills Have Eyes made a shit load of money, and the fact that the producers want to cash in circa mid 1980’s. That’s the extent of journalistic standards for an exploitation film. The text also proclaims that “the hills still have eyes". How fucking convenient.

Bobby from the first film is sitting down with a psychiatrist, still haunted by flashbacks from The Hills Have Eyes part 1. He’s particularly nervous this week, as him and his friends are planning to enter a dirt bike race in the desert, somewhere near where the original massacre took place. Now that’s a fucking plot. Watching the film, you might become curious that it's filled with flashbacks from the first film, on top of the expository dialogue and screen crawl that explained the plot of part one. This is all obviously a way to pad the film, as the links between the two are mostly cosmetic.

So, I hope you like movies where characters say “you know, this reminds me of a scene from a previous film!”, and clips from a superior movie come rushing forth. While it’s easy to claim hackery at this device, I have to give props to one particularly brilliant use flashback; that is, when even the dog has his own flashback scene. After all, here is a character carried over from the first film, and he has his own unique perspective on what took place, although coincidentally his flashback looks exactly the same as footage from part one. The horrors that transpired in the desert must have been pretty intense to still be traumatizing a dog eight years later. Unfortunately, dog psychiatry wasn’t really prevalent back then like it is now. “How was your childhood?” - ”Ruff!” - “We’re gonna have to send you back to the pound if you don’t shape up” – “Ruff you!”

Well, some chick’s alarm goes off, one of those electro robot clocks. It’s 2010, and I still don’t have one of those things. She was just that cutting edge at the time, I guess. Some dude on a motorcycle wearing a creepy mask pops over and invades her bedroom, but it’s just a false scare. These teens love putting on masks and jumping out at their friends, all done with an annoying “wacky” energy. The couple consists of Kevin Blair (resident studmuffin, later of Friday the 13th VII and several of the Subspecies films) and a hot blind chick named Cass, played by Tamara Stafford. This was (I think) her first and last starring role, so it's reasonable to conclude that this film killed her career. Maybe she’s really blind, and we all know how Hollywood hates the deformed. She’s a statuesque beauty-next-door with flowing locks, rocking the fashion with an autumnal sweater, tight pink jeans, and a scarf. Watching the film for the third time (sad, I know), I just noticed that the token black chick is Penny Johnson, most famous (in my mind) from her role as Beverly on The Larry Sanders Show. Here, she wears a ridiculous headband with some terrible hair, looking like an afro that was deflated like a tire. Here are clips of Rip Torn from the show, as there are no "best of Beverly" comps on Youtube.

Turns out that Bobby decides to stay home (I guess the actor was above starring in the entire film, or maybe he’s a pussy). However, as a supposed continuation of the plot of the first film, Ruby, the daughter of the cannibal family, is now a modern urban preppy. She joins the troupe on their trip, and is therefore forced to go back into the desert where she once lived, but as a normal person instead of a cannibal. I’m sure glad she was rehabilitated enough to be able to create this riveting dramatic conflict.

Well, this group of knuckleheads drive their bus into the desert, driven by the token goofball, who is unspeakably annoying. Their quest to enter into a dirt bike race hits a snag when they manage to forget about daylight savings time. “I can’t believe we all forgot about daylight savings time!”, Ruby points out. You’d think Cass’ super robot alarm clock would have fucking accounted for that. On top of that, they realize that they've been reading the map upside down the whole time. I guess all of the words being in upside down gibberish instead of English didn’t set off any alarms. They also develop some bus trouble along the way. All of these fateful coincidences result in the group ending up in the middle of the desert with no race in sight, in exactly the same spot where the first film took place. Sometimes lady luck is on her period, and you end up rolling snake eyes.

So, these teens explore this decrepit mining town and race their bikes around in order to pass the time. Of course, the cannibal family returns to attack these teens, even including Pluto (Michael Berryman), who died in the first film. I guess you had to bring Berryman back to please the fans, logic be damned. The first to bite the dust, thank god, is the goofball, who narrowly misses a spike trap before being crushed by a foam boulder (I knew he was a pussy). Poor Penny gets thrown through a window and awesomely gets her throat slit by a machete (I mean poor for Penny and great for the audience).

By far the best aspect of the film is final girl Cassie roaming blind through this creepy ghost town while being stalked, in sort of a decrepit version of Wait Until Dark. Her scenes are well photographed (with a wandering wide angle lens), as she stumbles around this strange location, unable to see the obvious slasher setup in front of her nose. I don’t know why a blind girl would ride out to the desert to watch a dirt bike race, but it does lend itself to some suspenseful scenes. I also really like the Harry Manfredini score, even though it’s a reworking of his earlier scores (Friday the 13th and Swamp Thing, it sounds like). After all, Bernard Herrmann ripped off his own Vertigo score for his work on Obsession, and that proved lovely as well.

Apparently, Wes Craven only made the film because he was desperate for money. While the direction is worthy of Craven to an extent, the script (solely credited to him) is ridiculous beyond belief, so much so that it is hard to believe he really wrote it. I guess it was written around the stock footage to save money, and that’s a big part of the problem, but the plot is dumb and inexplicable, even by the standards of mid 80’s slasher trash. Having said that, it’s still better than Music of the Heart, which I’m sure worked wonders opening the eyes of heartless bureaucrats keeping violins away from inner city kids. However, this safe plot is no competition to the utter mind bending audacity to pad a film with dog flashbacks.

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