The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985)
Main Menu Audio
Biographies-Cast-Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe
Filmographies-Cast-Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe
Trailer-The Hills Have Eyes, Last House On The Left,
Trailer-Dawn Of The Dead, Suspiria
|Year Of Production||1985|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Wes Craven|
Willard E. Pugh
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||Unknown||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
“In the mid-nineteen seventies, a family of tourists from Cleveland unwisely left the paved highway and drove off across the desert on an unmarked dirt road.
Soon lost, they wandered onto a vast, deserted bomb range inhabited only by tarantulas, rattlesnakes and…a wild family of cannibals unknown to the civilised world.
By nightfall the innocent vacation had become a brutal battle for survival which left few alive.
And of those who did survive, none can forget that far out in the unmapped desert, beyond the towns and roads, the hills still have eyes.”
- Opening intertitle
I’m sure many people travelling through remote parts of the country in the comfort of their air-conditioned vehicles have gazed into the hills or across the sandy deserts and wondered if a hiccup in humanity could be surviving out there. Tobe Hooper certainly must have when he created the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, his masterpiece of backwoods familial fury and later Wes Craven, before hitting the big time with Nightmare on Elm Street, most likely experienced the same eerie feeling when piecing together his celebrated Hills Have Eyes.
Loosely based on the 15th Century Scottish legend of the incestuous, cave-dwelling cannibalistic Sawney Beane clan, the Hills Have Eyes transplanted the fog-shrouded setting to that of the sun-baked Arizona desert. Like the dysfunctional Beanes the unwholesome quintet of Pluto, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Ruby preyed upon the innocent as they passed through their territory. By transforming the landscape into a series of ingenious traps and lethal configurations, the redneck flesh-eaters caught their “food” with the brutal swiftness and assuredness of a hungry rattlesnake.
Craven skilfully directed the film with the grittiness and survivalist tension befitting the harsh environment. But it was the casting of Michael Berryman as Pluto that was Craven’s masterstroke. Berryman’s bizarre Tor Johnson-esque countenance and frighteningly primal actions made you believe that he was indeed born out of some unholy union. The fact that he and his male kinfolk had the names of planets also reinforced a menacing sense of otherness.
The original film ends with the last terrorised tourist, Bobby Carter, escaping with Ruby, the only female member of the clan. Over the course of the film Ruby developed a conscience and decided to turn her back on the ‘family’ and help Bobby avoid his gruesome fate.
The Hills Have Eyes 2 picks up eight years later. Bobby is still in counselling and married to the now non-flesh-eating Ruby (who has changed her name to Rachel). Owning a Yamaha dealership, the wedded couple and a group of friends plan a trip to a motor cross rally to try and sell a petrol substitute Bobby has invented. However, Bobby gets cold feet when he learns that he will have to pass through Ruby’s old stomping ground and decides to stay behind. Regardless, Ruby and a group of their friends (including Cass, an intuitive blind girl) decide to take the ‘risk’. As expected, the bus the group are travelling in breaks down and they’re confronted by the two surviving members of the ‘family’ who are hankering for some long pig.
In an attempt to create an interesting follow-through story about Bobby and Ruby coming to terms with their past, Craven drops the bone and buries it amid a junkyard of flashbacks from the original film. Even Beast the dog, who returns from the original, is granted a flashback - a sequence now famous among fans as one of the most ludicrous in horror history. Worse still is the mundane gag-infested dialogue and clichéd slasher mentality which ultimately taints the narrative and drags the film down.
The few truly disturbing moments involve the blind girl Cass. Like the sightless Mia Farrow in See No Evil (1971), Cass’ vulnerability is alarmingly depicted. As Cass gropes her way through the hillbilly lair, it’s the non-identification of horrific objects she can’t discern with touch that create a chilling frisson - A brush past a dead dog hanging on a wall, or her being blissfully unaware that she just ran her fingers over a severed hand are genuinely macabre.
Aside from Cass’ inspired scenes, the only other reason to invest in a copy of the Hills Have Eyes 2 would be for the return of cult figure Michael Berryman in his role as Pluto. But even then, familiarity started to breed a little contempt when I realised his character was simply a carbon copy of the original. A great opportunity to add another layer to his and Ruby's personas was frustratingly lost. In a scene when Pluto realises the woman he is about to slaughter is in fact his sister Ruby, the situation passes without a glimmer of emotion or insight.
Believe it or not The Hills Have Eyes III has been in and out of development for the past 20 years. Wes Craven is reported to be Executive Producer while his son, Jonathan is writing the script. The story is allegedly about the military trying to exploit the tenacity of the clan but it backfires on them. Depending on the success of the remake of the original now doing the rounds at theatres, we may just be blessed with a part 3 sooner than we think.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced, the transfer ranges from being primarily quite sharp to intermittently noisy.
Fortunately, the majority of the print is in good condition with only the flashback (I counted five) and opening title sequences riddled with grain and print damage.
In some scenes shadow detail clarity is slightly compromised by the darkness of the print. For example, inside the house (25:36), during the outdoor shower scene (55:54), and at 62:14 when Cass discovers something strange about the fridge. Regardless, blacks are very solid without showing any signs of low level noise.
The organic colour palette consisting mainly of various shades of brown and yellow appear slightly faded and washed-out. Bright colours like blue and red are remarkably vivid, but tend to be oversaturated. The red bus is the worst culprit. Every time the bus appears on the screen it vibrates and its redness threatens to bleed (see 14:25, 18:20 and 20:10 for examples).
Apart from the flashback sequences, the majority of the print is quite clean with only a few fine hair lines, white speckling and blemishes cropping up now and again.
The Hills Have Eyes 2 is available with English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround audio options.
If you don’t have a 5.1 surround setup then you shouldn't be disappointed considering the mix on offer here. There’s very little surround activity with most of the dialogue, soundtrack and score channelled through the front speakers. There is some good directional use of sound during the opening flashback sequence, which has the screams of the victims spread across the five channels, and at 11:34 when the sound of the motorbike engine rips out through the rears.
However, it appears that although the audio has been upgraded to accommodate 5.1 output, it hasn’t been remastered. Surround use is uneven, sparse and the 5.1 mix tends to highlight rather than alleviate the problems inherent in the original mono-intended audio.
The score by the prolific Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th ) is uninspired, but serviceable. Manfredini knows where to place a discordant note and add a few sombre and creepy flourishes to create tension.
In the 5.1 mix sound effects can be jarring at times and could have had some bass added to them to soften the blow. This isn’t a problem with the 2.0 playback which has volume levels lower and less jolting. Subwoofer use is non-existent.
The dialogue in both mixes tends to sound slightly hissy and is often rendered either too loud or too soft.
|Surround Channel Use|
An interesting text-based biography which explains the medical cause of Berryman’s bizarre looks. This is followed by a brief overview of his career.
Another interesting text-based biography covering the career of minor scream queen Janus Blythe (Cass).
Theatrical Trailer (un-countered: approx. 2:30) Way out in the desert, further than the eye can see…
The Hills Have Eyes
Last House on the Left
Dawn of the Dead
The Region 1 Image version reportedly contains an awful full-frame transfer, but it does have the original mono mix, which is the only sound option.
Like our Region 4 release, the Region 2 (UK) Anchor Bay edition has 5.1 and 2.0 mixes and is presented in a 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 picture format. However, it also comes with a DTS option.
Considering that no version has any real substantial bonus features the choice appears to come down to your preferred audio mix.
Our Region 4 and the Region 2 editions contain close to the original mono with the 2.0 mix. This should cancel out having to invest in the shoddy full-frame Region 1 version.
However, taking into account the fact that the audio source materials are not in the best shape, unless the DTS is a true audio remastering then I just can’t imagine how it could improve upon the 5.1. So until I learn otherwise and considering other factors like the cost of importing the Region 2, the Region 4 is my version of choice.
Even though the Hills Have Eyes 2 has its moments, if you’re in the mood for some raw, gruesome hillbilly madness, dust off your copy of the original Hills Have Eyes to remind yourself how it should be done.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output|
|Display||Yamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||get a marshall stack, and crank it up.|
|Speakers||2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.|