Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jason watches "The Hills Have Eyes 2"

Yeah, I know it's supposed to suck. It's a little better than it's 13% tomatometer score, but not much. But I'm a sucker for a horror movie, and was surprised that this was still in theaters, so I took a chance.

I have a theory about the progression of American horror movies as it relates to society. In the 70's/80's, horror was about morality. You can't find a harsher indictment of drug/alcohol abuse and premarital teen sex than the "Friday the 13th" movies. In the 90's, horror became comedy, best exemplified by the "Scream" movies. We were no longer afraid (the cold war was over and we won), and we had more relaxed attitudes about morality (thank you Clinton) and so we laughed at what used to scare us. Then in the 00's, particularly post 9/11, we're scared again, and horror is serious again. Horror in this decade can be characterized by extraordinarily graphic genre exercises (the "Saw" movies, which have an ostensible philosophy about "those who don't appreciate life don't deserve it", but it's so laughable that I don't even think the filmmakers even tried to believe it until the third movie), and by the fact that horror is political, best exemplified by "Hostel"--a movie that's simultaneously about the fear of Americans (at least the fear of the world that America has created) and the fear of being American. Other examples would be "Land of the Dead", which is an allegory about gated communities, and the 2006 remake of "The Hills Have Eyes", in which the lesson (helpfully doled up by French director Alexandre Aja) is that liberals need to grow some freakin' balls (nice scene in that movie when the liberal kid stabs a mutant through the head with an American flag).

Well, "The Hills Have Eyes 2" certainly keeps up the gruesome genre exercise part of the equation, as completely interchangeable mutants (except for the token "good" one) torture, kill, and impregnate a team of nearly interchangeable National Guard rookies (introduced as a team of complete fuck-ups). And as for the politics, it does break new ground by acknowledging the formula without actually having anything political to say. Just like in a morality horror tale, you know the square girl who won't smoke pot or put out will be the survivor (screw you, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake), now the one guardsman who opposes the war will be the survivor. And I don't consider that a spoiler to give away the ending of a movie this predictable. Problem is, it doesn't have anything political beyond 'liberal survives for no good reason'. I suppose this was bound to happen, but it's still disappointing.

By the way, since I mentioned "Hostel" earlier (and I'm so psyched up for "Hostel 2" this summer), I have to say that one of the things I really loved about "Hostel" is that it sets up the morality equation of who's the good guy who will survive, and then purposely confounds that expectation. When you see something like that, you know the movie was directed by a madman and anything can happen. Good on you, Eli Roth!

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