The Hills Have Eyes Part II will be released on Blu-ray newly restored in 2K from original film elements with the original, uncompressed mono audio by Arrow Video on September 17, 2019. New cover artwork was designed by Paul Shipper (King Cohen; The Last House on the Left). Naturally, the original poster is on the reverse side.
The limited edition set includes a reversible fold-out poster, six postcards, and a 40-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amanda Reyes plus an archival set visit from Fangoria, all packaged in a slipcase.
- New Audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues podcast
- New Blood, Sand, and Fire: The Making of The Hills Have Eyes Part II – Featuring interviews with actors Michael Berryman and Janus Blythe, production designer Dominick Bruno, composer Harry Manfredini, and unit production manager/first assistant director John Callas
- Stills gallery
- Theatrical trailer
‘So you think you’re lucky to be alive’
The Hills Have Eyes Part II is the sequel to seminal 1977 film, The Hills Have Eyes. Both films were written and directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street; The Last House on the Left; Scream).
Continuing the story of a murderous clan of inbred cannibals living deep in the rocky outcrops of the North American desert, we are re-introduced to Bobby (Robert Houston), a survivor from the first film, who is still traumatised by the events that saw most of his family brutally killed.
Despite his psychiatrist’s attempts to get him back into the desert to face his fears (under the umbrella of riding across with his new biker gang, to show off his newly invented motorbike super-fuel cough), Bobby stays at home, whilst his road-hugging mates do the honours.
Amongst their number are Rachel (played by Janus Blythe, she was the character Ruby in the first film, the turncoat cannibal daughter who saved the remaining Carter family members). Also returning are Pluto (Michael Berryman), Brenda, (Susan Lanier) and Beast the dog.
Inevitably, the touring party are intercepted by yet more cannibals in the desert and with a cavalier attitude to events and ‘facts’ in the prequel, a final showdown with the Reaper (John Bloom, though voiced by Nicholas Worth from the sleazy, Don’t Answer the Phone!).
Despite being the second highest grossing horror film of 1977 (behind Exorcist II: The Heretic, perhaps a bad omen), taking some $25 million from a paltry $230,000 investment, the sequel was saddled with a disinterested studio (VTC) and a $700,000 cheque.
Craven’s claimed that he only made the film as he needed the money seem debatable; in the same year, he made a TV movie, Invitation to Hell, and the break out smash, A Nightmare on Elm Street, budgeted at $1.8 million – whilst the latter film’s success spurred the studio on to complete The Hills Have Eyes Part II, it was halted mid-production due to costs (hence Elm Street’s earlier release date).
The interruption to the film’s production meant Craven had to assemble the film with footage already shot, necessitating clips from the original film being re-used to pad it out. Clearly a frustrating shoot but none of this, budget nor studio apathy, come anywhere near to excusing the shambles onscreen.
Through sheer bad luck, the two surviving ‘urban’ characters were the least interesting in the prequel and attempts to flesh them out here fail miserably, with Rachel’s torn personality though remarkable acclimatisation to fat-headed American middle-classdom, particularly wearisome.
The newer characters are even worse; meet Roy, Harry, Hulk (yes, Hulk), Foster, Sue and Jane as well as The Reaper, described as being Jupiter’s big brother, despite the first film categorically nailing the cannibal family tree out without any mention of him.
Perhaps the most remarkable element is that Craven built such a credible nightmarish vision in 1977, yet forgets what made it so horrifying; the bad guys are now mere cartoons, whilst the innocents are, to a man, as annoying as they come, all fully deserving to be dispatched even quicker than they are.
The failing of many a horror film is to present the viewer with heroes who are either unlikeable or uninteresting and with unrealistic threats that are we are not able to relate to. Alas, Craven sees fit to trample all over his groundwork and make a film which is the forebear of so many modern horror films – one which tries to over-explain rather than plant ideas and ramp up the tension.
So lacklustre is the main body of the film, that it seems churlish to even mention the now notorious ending. The ending is not the worst bit of the film, only symptomatic of how overly contented directors can dismiss their audience as having such low demands.
Craven has since disowned the film, which is rather like dismissing your own washing-up; it doesn’t go away and it will always have your mark on it. Musical duties were handled by Harry Manfredini, best known for his much-aped score to Friday the 13th. Replacing Don Peake’s metallic, inventive score with this musical flotsam is the very least you should expect.
Remarkably, many of the actors went on to have meaningful careers. John Bloom, already a veteran of the likes of The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant, continued to play over-sized characters until his death in 1999. Robert Houston became an Oscar-winner (for directing not acting, natch), whilst Michael Berryman continues to act in horror films up to the present day.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA
“The Hills Have Eyes Part II is a bad horror film. By limiting the movie to two “mutants”, the horror just doesn’t seem as intense especially when they are picking off twenty-somethings that you have no vested interest in.” JP Roscoe, Basement Rejects
“More sophisticated production values are not necessarily an improvement. The whole thing lacks the raw reptilian manipulative power of the original.” Mike Mayo, The Horror Show Guide
“Everything in this movie is so stupid. It’s hard to even imagine how stupid it is if you haven’t seen it. From the legendary “dog-having-a-flashback”-scene to one of the female characters suddenly taking an outdoor shower because “she can’t miss a chance like this”, and this is in the middle of the night…” Ninja Dixon
Cast and characters:
Robert Houston … Bobby
David Nichols … The Psychiatrist
Virginia Vincent … Ethel Carter (archive footage)
James Whitworth … Jupiter (archive footage)
Suze Lanier-Bramlett … Brenda (archive footage) (as Susan Lanier)
Tamara Stafford … Cass
Kevin Spirtas … Roy (as Kevin Blair)
John Laughlin … Hulk
Willard E. Pugh … Foster (as Willard Pugh)
Peter Frechette … Harry
Colleen Riley … Jane
Penny Johnson Jerald … Sue (as Penny Johnson)
Janus Blythe … Rachel / Ruby
Lance Gordon … Mars (archive footage)
Brenda Marinoff … Katy (archive footage)
Bronson Caves and Canyon, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California
Joshua Tree, California
San Bernardino, California
Aspect Ratio: 1.85: 1