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Culture Movies
Culture: The Hills have Eyes II
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Friday, 27 July 2007 Written by Henry Midgley
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I think they just saw the film
The Hills have Eyes II should not be bracketed with Casablanca or Wild Strawberries, indeed its doubtful whether it should be bracketed with even such masterpieces as Marie Antoinette. All films have their genres and there is a respected genre of horror films that many people who like films love- but this is not an advert for it that any advocate of the genre would be proud of. Simply put there are good or great works of art, there are creditable failures, there are attempts to make one enjoy a good hour and a half, but this succeeds in providing neither enjoyment nor exhilaration.

Before completely destroying the film its worth starting with a positive or two. The idea of setting a film in a set of tunnels is worthwhile for generating a spooky atmosphere- though the film doesn't follow through on the idea. There is a lot of violence in this film- blood laces the beginning, middle and end. From the opening shot a gruesome pregnancy with a horrendous baby and right through there is shot after shot of blood and violence. As someone not enamoured of senseless violence- it was the landscapes of Morocco that I will remember first when I remember this film- the countryside out acts most of the cast most of the time.

But the point is though that despite the landscape there is not much here that is worth seeing. In interviews the actors talk about the relationships between their characters- but there is really nothing here more than the generic. None of the characters develop (more than they scream) and the whole subtlety of human interraction is washed away in an ocean of fake blood.

The problems with the film though are much deeper- focusing around the issue of a band of national guardsmen and women sent out to deal with a problem- it essentially attempts to parallel Iraq- but its political point is lost because all it does is parallel. The parallel is not a nice one either- as far as I know and I haven't been to the Middle East, Arabs are not man eating monsters. There is no real equivalence between man eating monsters and the average Iraqi- quite how Wes Craven thinks there is is about as much of a mystery as how I remained awake through this entire film.

Ultimately there remains this fairly disturbing idea in my mind that the entire film is a completely pointless exercise- rape and murder happen on screen but this isn't a film that does more than revel in the blood and gore of it all- in women being penetrated forcefully for the fun of it and men with wallets buried in their heads. (Incidentally what about a film where a man gets raped and a woman gets killed- or do monsters only adhere to the heterosexual norm- that might be too far for this 'groundbreaking' film to go though).

The film is layered with extras- two in particular a documentary about how it is made and an interview with the writer Wes Craven came to my attention- both though are equally vapid and reinforce the point this review makes. The documentary stresses the physical struggle of the actors to make the film- a point that is very accurately made and some of the stunts may well be impressive- but a film should not exist just for its stunts nor for its grisly murder scenes- and yet here that's what the actors want to talk about- none of them seem to have any relationship with their characters. Craven as well talks to some film students who are deferential to the point of inspiring nausea in this viewer- and again the points they make are uninteresting- searching for enlightenment as to why he had been exposed to images of violence and sexual violence your reviewer despaired of finding any answer amidst the formulaic questions and answers delivered there. The three film students provide a wonderful template of how not to interview anyone- so anodyne is their manner (no Paxman they) that as Craven responds they resemble nothing so much as nodding dogs.

The Hills have Eyes II is therefore convicted of that most heinous of cinematic sins- it is both unintelligent and uninteresting. It tortures the eyeballs without justifying the torture it puts us through. It implicitly compares Arabs to monsters coming from the ground- if you take both its director and its writer's words seriously- and it lacks that most important of things a sensible plot. It is filled with blood and gore, if you want that go for it- but for anyone else I'd move on to more substantial fare.