Revisiting the Hill Pt 2 (The Hills Have Eyes 2, 2007)

The first film was successful enough that they made a sequel. I don’t think that it would be accurate to call this a remake of The Hills Have Eyes Part 2.

This time around we have a script from Wes Craven and his son Jonathan. A new Director was also brought in. Largely a music video Director, Martin Weisz took over for Aja. Music video directors seem to have been a them for horror remakes.

Instead of following the survivors of the previous film, we get an entirely new cast of victims. Centering the threat around a military research camp exploring the crater established in the first film, we see the base get attacked and all its occupants slaughtered. A group of soldiers are sent out to check in, with no idea of what has happened. So when they arrive, they find an abandoned base.

As the soldiers start exploring the surrounding areas they find themselves under assault from an unseen enemy. Eventually, of course, the mutants reveal themselves and it becomes a fight for the soldiers to survive.

The film is pretty intense and exciting, but does add one explanation that was in the original Part Two as well, but more graphically. The mutants refresh their population by capturing women and raping them. This is actually established right at the beginning of the film. Honestly, this is such an uncomfortable thing to show.

The soldiers are mostly a genre mish mash of stereotypes. There is the passive guy, the tough guys, the tough girls, the tough Sergeant (Conveniently nicknamed Sarge). There is a some good interactions between the characters, and honestly, some of them make smart decisions, often being overrode by the tough guys.

This is an okay sequel/remake…and a whole lot more enjoyable than the Hills Have Eyes Part 2.

Oh yeah…by the way…this film has one of the all time great teaser trailers.

So simple…but very effective.

Revisiting the Hills Pt 1 (The Hills Have Eyes, 2006)

In the early part of the aughts, studios started to remake Wes Craven’s films. To a certain extent, this was, I believe, an attempt to give Craven more financial benefit from his work. He was tangentially involved in these films as a producer, they were all written and directed by different people.

The Hills Have Eyes was probably a good place to start. It is a film known mainly to fans of Wes Craven and horror. However, a lot of people in the mainstream are likely to have simply heard the name.

Bringing in Alexandre Aja to write and direct. He had made a real impression with 2003’s High Tension, and honestly, was probably a strong choice. High Tension was part of the French Extreme trend in horror where stories could be messy and plot twists do not make sense. Here, the extreme violence of his work really is at home.

The core story is there. A family is on vacation in their RV. They go on a detour to shorten their drive time and the car appears to break down. They discover there are other people hiding in the hills and those people attack them and kidnap their baby. And then the family must fight back.

The original film is about a family from civilization versus the feral family. The film plays up the family divisions, with Big Bob’s tough Republican versus Doug’s “weak Democrat” played up big time. In fact a lot of the film is devoted to Doug becoming a violent badass. This is not an exaggeration. Doug goes from a guy barely able to think of using a gun to hand to hand violent killer. The film is pretty good at manipulating the viewer, because Doug is trying to save his baby.

The remake’s biggest alteration is that the feral family are ravaged by radiation. They are basically mutant monsters. Visually, this is really effective, though it loses something to make the Jupiter family outright inhuman monsters.

This is a decent remake and I think gorehounds will find it enjoyable.

The Not So Fantastic Four (Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four, 2016)

doomed_posterYou may think that there have been three Fantastic Four films.  There were the two Tim Story film with Jessica Alba and Chris Evans…and the 2015 film with Miles Teller and Kate Mara.  But there are tales of a first film, never seen by the world.  Spoke in hushed tones.  Okay, not really.  There actually was a first movie made back in 1994.  It was completed and even had release material.  Outside of bootleg copies, the film has never seen the light of day.

The short version is that in the early 90’s, Marvel Comics was in real dire straights (they went into bankruptcy)…this resulted in them selling the film rights to multiple characters, such as Captain America, the Punisher and the Fantastic Four.  The producer with the option for the Fantastic Four shopped the option around, finalizing a deal with the king of low budget film Roger Corman.  The catch? Unknown to the cast and crew,  This producer simply wanted to keep the rights.  He had no plan to release the film.

But there is more to the story, and really?  It is quite interesting.  Doomed! The Untold Tale of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four delves deeply into the story, giving the viewer insight into exactly how it all played out.  With a cast of actors that were at least semi-recognizable at the time (and many who are still working today) such as Jay Underwood and Alex Hyde-White.

What stands out is that the director, cast and crew were dedicated to making a good movie…though one hindered by a tiny budget.  The effects were limited and the story was not very strong…they never did ADR to make Joseph Culp’s Doctor Doom understandable.  They hired a guy who claimed he was an effects supervisor on Independence Day…and they discovered…he was not.

The people behind the film were passionate, and it become clear that even Corman thought the film was going to be released.  He was creating posters, button and trailers (I have a poster in storage somewhere, as well as a couple of the buttons).  The people involved clearly wanted (and still want) the film to be seen.  And there is a lot of hurt feelings involved, including some understandable bitterness towards Marvel Icon Stan Lee.

The film is a fascinating exploration of the passion that can go into film-making and when those hopes and big dreams get dashed.  Even if you do not care about the Fantastic Four, this tale is epic and engaging.  It is an effective documentary that can give you insight into the more heartbreaking side of film-making.

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