Although writer-director Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke had gone on to make their own separate film and TV projects after the success of the original Hills Have Eyes (1977), they reunited in 1985 for this incredibly daft sequel which hastily gathers a few characters from the first film in what's really a generic Friday the 13th template.
(Craven and Locke even engaged composer Harry Manfredini to pen the lush orchestral score, treating the characters and action scenes with total sincerity, although Manfrednini has fun riffing his Friday the 13th ‘Hee-hee-hee Ha-ha-ha' motif.)
Luring, trapping, and finishing off lost morons in abandoned mining caves is the only plot similarity between this 1985 sequel to the 2007 sequel to the 2006 remake (still following?) that amped up the blood, gore, and sadism, although both temporal sequels share the same level of gratingly bad scriptwriting (both by Craven) that fulfill the minimum requirements to make a movie.
Few horror sequels actually succeed in either surpassing the quality of the original or standing on their own because most are made for money, and this production feels like a hasty cash-in: actor Robert Houston (by then an established and future Oscar-winning director) returned to reprise his role as Bobby in two scenes: the film's intro psychiatry session with a weirdly profane head shrink; and at a garage, where he informs the group and his (assumed) girlfriend Rachel that he's unable to supervise the test run of his latest batch of goosed motorcycle fuel (which is actually labeled “Super Formula” on the black barrel for our benefit) due to lingering post-traumatic stress disorder.
In light of his continuing pain from the desert massacre, Rachel takes on the dual role of supervisor and partner, and along with German Shepherd ‘Beast' (the canine survivor from ‘Bad Vacation' of '77, minus partner ‘Beauty'), the two accompany a busload of bikers and babes deep into the Yucca Flats desert. Rachel doth protests when it's decided by majority rule to take a detour, and Rachel remains understandably ill at ease when the bus suddenly loses fuel, and the group are forced to park their red school bus at an abandoned mine depot.
It takes more than 25 minutes to get the cast into the desert territory so mutants like The Reaper and Pluto (played by a returning Michael Berryman) make their presence known, and only then doth Rachel reveal herself to be the magically transformed Ruby, the semi-feral chick who aided the mutant family in '77, but switched teams and saved the human baby.
Well-coiffed, fully at ease with English syntax, and apparently business savvy after living off critters and the other-other white meat in her prior life, Rachel/Ruby also has one of several flashbacks Craven uses to frame the film and sneak in some contextual backstory for novices, latecomers, and those with rather blurry memories of the original film.
Even Beast (the German Shepherd) remembers biting and mauling Pluto in '77 in his own canine flashback (see, dogs do dream). Maybe it made sense on paper (or perhaps Craven was smoking cabbage), but the whole segment feels like a joke that managed to slip past the financiers and stayed in the picture.
The lazy plotting seems to come from Craven having written himself into a corner: there's too many characters to kill off, and Craven clearly chose to work within a much safer slasher framework thanA Nightmare on Elm Street, his prior thriller. The movie also contains a lot of dopey humour (only one joke pays off) that makes the film feel like a wonky youth comedy.
Most likely the filmmakers wanted to target their franchise entry on a teenage audience and avoid some of the censorial issues that would affect rival sequels like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). The main characters are more or less frat boys, and Craven sticks with the idiotic behaviour that mitigates a character's death: told to stay indoors by Rachel/Ruby (who completely knows what her ex-family will do), a girlfriend nevertheless wanders outside, and within Craven's overlit valley set, she sees something deserving her attention: a shower, where she can cleanse the desert soil from her supple skin.
If viewed as a satire of slasher conventions, the '85 sequel actually works as a good bad movie, with tongue-in-cheek nods to dumb genre elements like the class clowns being among the first (and most deserving) to die, jocks getting metaphorically emasculated (and sometimes, literally), and jiggling boobies – the latter displayed by actress Penny Johnson (Mrs. President Palmer on TV's 24) in a whoopee scene with Willard E. Pugh (the weasely Mayor Kuzak in the loud & crass 1990 sequel, Robocop 2).
A bit of bad taste comes in the character of Cass (ephemeral actress Tamara Stafford), Roy's blind girlfriend, whose heightened other senses help her smell gas when the party bus is leaking fuel, hear fear (no, really), and sense when two of the boys have gone missing in the valley because their bike motors have gone silent.
Fans of the franchise also won't be pleased to see the cackling mutants as rather wimpy creatures (particularly Pluto, who loses his superhuman strength after an abrupt capture). It's not because they've had to settle for protein-weak critter vittles since 1977 (the cave kitchen is full of parts and fresh kills), but they're, well, just dumb. (Improperly cooked brain can harbor nasty bugs, so maybe it's a bad case of kuru).
During the intervening years, however, they've managed to further their technical skills beyond the use of walkie-talkies and master electrical engineering, and ride motocross bikes with surprising agility when barreling through tight boulders and crevices.
Whether the film did undergo some alleged pre-release editing isn't evident or relevant; The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is hasty filmmaking (the continuity is particularly sloppy) made to earn some quick and easy cash, but Craven's lazy writing, the weak acting, and wonky plot elements manage to gel into a guilty pleasure– something the addle-brained 2007 sequel will never earn 8 years from now.
Alongside several more TV projects, Craven followed up with the cult-favourite Deadly Friend (1986) and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), while producer Locke involved himself in a number of genre productions, including the recent Hills remake & 2007 sequel, and Bernard Rose's Snuff-Movie (2005).
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan