Numbers Back Up
If major changes are not made, the Guard and Reserve, the capability to carry out their missions, will continue to deteriorate. And it will go down, down, down. They will be less and less ready, and we will be taking more and more risks.
—Retired Marine Corps Major General Arnold J. Punaro (McClatchy Newspapers, 1 March 2007)
They’ll keep you alive for breeding, trying to get their numbers back up.
—Kober (Jeff Kober), The Hills Have Eyes 2
The yucky desert mutants have resurfaced, this time in search of females for breeding. Their all-male tribalism—here a sign of deviance—is underlined in the first scene of The Hills Have Eyes 2, in which a non-mutant- looking woman gives extremely painful birth to a baby (animatronic, very ugly, very bloody). Exhausted and relieved to be done, she looks up at her minder, a hulking mutant seen only from the back, who promptly whacks her in the head with a large, lethal implement.
The mutant community’s apparent misogyny is then juxtaposed with the coed National Guard. The human unit is involved in brutal activity as well—they’re training in a desert area that passes for “Kandahar,” realm of multiple explosions and jaggedy camerawork—they interact with girls, even seeming to treat them as “equals.” Not only does the unit include two female members, but the group is soon accosted by an “Afghan” woman in black burqa, wailing about the babies they’ve killed. As they make an attempt to comfort her, she opens her robe to reveal… a bomb!
The kids’ hard-ass sergeant, Millstone (Flex Alexander), proceeds to chew them out for bad prep and bad execution, reminding them that they’ve got much more difficult work ahead of them, when they deploy to the Middle East and meet up with folks who really really don’t want them there. Before that, however, they’re going to spend a few days in New Mexico, where they’re assigned to look after a team of researchers. Here they will meet the cannibalistic mutants, who actually don’t mind their invasion, as it provides food and females.
The pretend-Afghan location is pretty much the extent of Hills Have Eyes 2‘s overt commentary on the current U.S. wars policy, though it does include an anti-war Guardsman, PFC “Napoleon” Napoli (Michael McMillian), whom the sergeant snidely calls “Doonesebury” (suggesting the screenwriters are literate, at least). En route to the New Mexico site, he reminds his fellows that the president has been lying about reasons for war, as has the government for decades concerning the nuclear testing in the desert. Thus he anticipates the mutants’ basic problem, that they were irradiated, then abandoned, and so have been cultivating and passing on their anger since the 1950s. By the time the Guard arrives, this rage has reached something of a fever pitch.
The troops have heard the rumors, of course, that Section 16 was a test area. But even as they might imagine, Aliens-like, that their mission is a “bug hunt,” they can’t anticipate the survivalist, voracious cleverness of the descendents of radiation victims. Neither can they guess that the mutants are seeking especial vengeance against the able-bodied, and especially, the pretty—for every one of the trainees could be a fashion model.
As soon as they arrive, the kids are pictured in frames approximating the “hills”’ perspective (they have eyes, etc.) But it’s hard to be nervous for them, as they act out in such conventional ways. Along with the macho hothead Private “Crank” (Jacob Vargas) and overweight, always nervous Cpl. “Splitter” (Eric Edelstein), the team is graced with a sniper supreme, Delmar (Thompson Young), whose calm-under-duress is increasingly admirable. The premise here, that the mutants perform as “insurgents,” surprisingly adept, organized, relentless, and equipped, leaves the trainees looking under-prepared: not enough intel, recon, or weaponry, not to mention armor, as they have apparently no idea how to fight the insidious intimacy of the mutants’ favorite attack strategy, by penetrating and severing.
Battles with the mutants result in all manner of bodily abuse (and the mutants arrive looking mightily pre-abused, their heads and limbs misshapen, one passing like a chameleon for rocks, another very curiously wearing spectacles). After a couple of encounters, the troops smarten up, understanding the mutants’ primary desire and using the girls as bait. But as soon as single Latina mom Missy (Daniella Alonso) and gorgeous blond Amber (Jessica Stroup, whose makeup never seems to run, no matter the heat, sweat, or blood) appear to cry in order to draw fire, the group’s self-congratulations are stopped when Missy actually goes missing, dragged down inside the mines occupied by the mutants, so that the movie suddenly converts from exterior battle scenes to rip-off of the far superior Descent.
This team’s descent, in an effort to recover Missy, is soon revealed as cockamamie: they’re no longer trained fighters with automatic guns but victims in a splatter movie, walking into hellatious traps and reacting to gooey mutant faces (one mutant, apparently blind, comes with glasses, remnant of the civilization they’ve transcended). While they’re pairing off and getting lost, Missy undergoes the most unpleasant ordeal. Immediately slammed against a table in preparation for a mutant named “Letch” (Jason Oettle) in the credits, she endures assaults by his gargantuan tongue, his ejaculate-looking spittle, and his actual penis (the sight of which you are spared, though you do see her horrified face as he thrusts). Gruesome and repulsive, the rape scene leads to her logical shock, mostly motivates her eventual mindless and more-trouble-causing revenge. Girls! They just can’t keep focus.