PictureFox deliver Hills 2 with a glorious 2.35:1 MPEG-4 transfer that, much like its theme of troops cut off and under relentless and primitive attack, seems honed from the same visual style of Black Hawk Down. Once again, we have a high contrasted image that likes to emphasise the heat and dryness of the location. But whilst some elements purposely brighten and dilute the background into a sunny glare, the foreground characters and details are always fantastically crisp and clear and highly delineated. Faces, weaponry and body-armour, rocks, wounds and mutant detritus are all very clean and clearly presented. The film is jam-packed with such grisly details as blood-spurts, dismembered parts and icky-bits - the guy stuck in the chemical toilet is one element when you wish there was less detail on offer - and everything is conveyed with the kind of stark 1080p vividness that you crave from a recent movie.
Colours are excellent. Okay, we are in a desert, but the various hues of the rocky hills and the shades of fatigues and armour all come over with well-maintained and consistent saturation. Blood is ripe and strong - that thick, glistening tone that looks seriously blurghhhh!. The lush red smothering of Dr. Foster's busted bonce especially gleams from the screen. The palette, otherwise, is predominantly yellow and ochre, but this does not hamper the image from actually looking hugely vibrant at the same time. Individual pockets of greenery - the sparse desert shrubbery - are boldly rendered too. Blacks are very strong indeed, with the cave and tunnel-set final third really piling on the thick depth of remorseless shadow without any hint of grey seepage, fading or lost detail. Areas deliberately lit up are natural and clean and there are plenty of interesting portions of the otherwise darkened picture that yield spots of intimidation, interest or atmospherics along the way, the deeper we go into the cannibal lair.
There is no image filtering to smooth this image out, either. A fine layer of grain still exists and no detail has been rubbed-out with DNR. I do think that certain edges have been enhanced though. Some occasional rocky outcrops and mountain peaks have some slight haloing around them which may or may not be intentional glare from sunlight, but I'll let you decide. Mid-to-background details in the terrain can vary, however. Sometimes the pebble-strewn slopes behind a character can be sharp and brilliantly rendered, but other times, the backdrops can soften-up a touch. Of course, this is possibly all a stylistic choice by Weisz and DOP Sam McCurdy - and I am inclined to think so, to be honest - but this does mean that certain shots have a wildly three-dimensional property that is not necessarily carried over by the shots either side.
As naff as the film ultimately ends up being, its image is extremely impressive even under the harshest of visual conditions - extreme light and extreme dark. A very strong 8 out of 10.
SoundThe audio boasts a terrific DTS-MA 5.1 track that is seriously exciting.
There is a convincing level of both clarity and bombast right from the start. The unsettling industrial score and the gut-wrenching screaming of the birthing scene sets the tone from the get-go. We are in the land of stark and immediate gunfire, sharply rendered and blisteringly steered around the set-up, vicious body-damaging impacts and squelchy penetrations aplenty. Rock-falls skitter naturally from all around, bullets zip off with ferocious bass and directionality and mutant roars and hollers ripple around the environment. Hill 2 has a very aggressive soundmix, indeed.
Dialogue throughout is totally clear and well directed. Scenes of disembodied voices sound true and full of directional depth - such as those used on Missy's phone as a lure, for instance - and the various shouting and screaming going on around the environment has placement and vitality aplenty. Individual effects are well picked-out and quite fun to hear. The sickly squelch of bloody fatigues and body armour when pressed against a chest wound. The water-trap that sends gushing torrents of the stuff rushing in from all sides at once. The explosion that is convincingly subdued due to its location of being underground. And the echo of rifle shots reverberating down the tunnels. This is all good stuff, folks. Impacts are meaty and painful, such as the rocky thuds of bodies hitting the ground and cracking open, or the hefty slamming that some characters endure as they are hurled against walls or the floor
The “stingers” that are extensively employed are also extremely well presented with maximum effect channelled by both music and FX. Even the fuse-box blowing during the daft early scenes of the scientific team going through the motions before getting wasted is pushed with a terrific jolt that actually made me jump. Other shock-cuts are just as immediate and dynamic, leading to a film that, at least, knows how to muster involuntary spasms from its audience even if it simply cannot engage them on any other level.
Overall, this is a great track that really enhances the experience and showcases a fine design with an impressive sense of enveloping and viewer-encirclement. Another very strong 8 out of 10.
ExtrasSadly, we don't get a commentary track for Hills 2. Both the original Hills and its remake benefit immensely from their talk tracks, so it comes as quite a surprise that Craven - ever determined to “big-up” his babies - does not provide one this time around. Nevertheless, he does crop up amongst the other features on offer.
Four time-coded Deleted Scenes (totalling 3.15 mins) don't give us much of interest - a bit more character stuff and a vision of a grisly infant corpse. And the Alternate Ending (0.56 mins) is well ... only slightly alternate, to be honest. It is gorier, though.
A 3.39 minute Gag Reel is very poor indeed and actually does the unimaginable in that it makes you hate the actors just as much as the characters they played. Now that takes some doing, folks. This is not your conventional line-fluffing type of deal - these bozos are just severe prats.
Mutant Attacks (9.47 mins) is an okay, but flashy, look at the bad guys of the piece and the initial scenario of the movie. We meet the producers, the production designer, the director and a smattering of the cast and the surprising thing is that the guys playing the monosyllabic mutants turn out to be far more erudite and intelligent than those playing the soldiers. There really isn't anything particularly new or intriguing revealed to us, and the piece does include an awful lot of film-clips to pad it out, but this is still a reasonably fun little chunk of EPK.
Much, much better and a real welcome treat is Birth Of A Graphic Novel (12.40 mins) which takes us behind the scenes, or panels perhaps, of the making of the spin-off comic-book prequel - Hills Have Eyes: The Beginning - to the events of the newer versions of the Hills mythology. Bringing in all the writers, artists, editors and publishers, this pleasingly comprehensive featurette goes a long way to providing the nuts and bolts of such an endeavour - far more so than Marvel tends to do with regards to the 2D origins of their cinematic heroes. Mind you, I love graphic novels, so this sort of thing would definitely appeal to me, but may be too much for those with only a casual interest in the medium. However, the concept of the comic-book is that it shows us how the mutants came to be, how their families were once quite, quite normal and how the government abused them and left them for dead and how, over sixty harsh years of bitter, brutal survival and desperate in-breeding they evolved into the hulking, primitive barbarians that populate the movies. It is a long, long way from Papa Jupiter, Mars and Pluto - but I certainly appreciate the enlarging of such a story and the bestowing it with such grisly grandeur. And this comic-book is most definitely grisly. “Gross-out done with style” one of the creative team calls it. A smart and informative look at every step of the way to getting such a idea from sketch to finished printed, shelf-ready page. Excellent.
Exploring The Hills: The Making Of Hills Have Eyes 2 (12.41 mins). Right at the start of this featurette, Craven smugly informs us that he told the studio that he and his son could write this sequel up in a month. A month! to write this - you've got to be kidding me! Craven is supposed to be some kind of genre demigod - and there was a time when I would have wholeheartedly agreed with that - but idiotically proud admissions such as this when the end result is not far from utter garbage just damn and dumb the man. They holed-up in a motel and worked from early morning until their eyes closed every day apparently. Well, it sure shows, doesn't it? Elsewhere, this piece belabours the clips-heavy style of pure EPK and makes a point of informing us at every opportunity of just how tough the shoot was. Lots of behind-the-scenes gubbins reveal the stuntwork and the use of wires and the film's preponderance for the “F” word is stunningly realised during Jacob Vargas's rehearsal for a pivotal scene, when even his director demands a more forceful delivery of it. You know, what little enjoyment I actually derived from the movie is slowly getting drained away with all this self-aggrandisement.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School With Wes Craven (10.20 mins). Now given my building irritation with Wes Craven's self delusions, you would think that this puff-pastry slice of fawning chat between himself and three goggle-eyed film students would have taken me beyond my tolerance ... and yet, in the gaggle of all-too-obviously pre-set questions and bland questions that he is posed with, he does not pretend to be anything other than an exploitation-flicker maestro who is keen on making the fast and easy buck. Hence his simple reply to why they chose to make the film in Morocco as opposed to the US - it was incredibly cheap. Quite what this trio actually learned from this process is debateable, however. And Craven's constant affiliation with the younger generation is now stretched beyond its breaking point.
Therefore, the only real enjoyment that I got from this selection was from the piece about the graphic novel - which is great, by the way, and definitely recommended for Hills fans.
VerdictNo-one is ever going to hail this film a classic, but with expectations lowered quite considerably, there is still a degree of gory fun to be had from it if you truly feel the need to sit through it all. But there is no denying that this is an unwanted addition to the mythology that set its sights on exploitation but still misses the target by a mile. The set-up, itself, is good and justifiably primitive - a war, cut and dried, between two societies - but the situation rapidly becomes tedious and irritating. The mutants are far less frightening than ever before - even those in Wrong Turn are far more effective than these - and their strange cult of capturing livestock with which to breed from only seems to make them more pathetic than menacing - a lost and lonely strand that is doomed to extinction rather than a seriously threatening tribe whose land even the army cannot reclaim.
With a cast of regrettables and shambling direction from a music video helmer, Hills 2 necessarily falls down to its gore quotient and yet, even here, it seems slightly lacking. Whilst there is plenty of claret sloshing about, the gross-out is bewilderingly inoffensive and the ease of having the environment and friendly fire take care of certain cast members is a severe letdown, when all we want from a flick such as this is all-out carnage and down-and-dirty, inter-personal conflict. I do love this mythology though, so it actually hurts to denounce this entry so much, but even with such easy-prey material there was no need to have gone down this slovenly avenue into the wastelands of the genre.
But, on the bright side, Fox's disc has both terrific image and sound quality. The picture is crisp and sharp and highly detailed and the audio is aggressive and immersive throughout. The extras are lousy, on the whole, with only the look at the graphic novel - which many may view entirely as just an over-indulgent promo - being any good. So, summing it up - we have a disposable and generic movie bolted together with grand AV and a slew of EPK drivel. The choice is yours, folks. But, for completists, there is the best option of the double-pack version of this and the infinitely superior remake from Alexandre Aja.
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