Hills Have Eyes [1977]

The Hills Have Eyes 2 For die-hard horror fans, The Hills Have Eyes 2 is a knock-off remake/sequel that delivers a few queasy thrills. While it represents a minor improvement over the 1985 sequel to Wes Craven's 1977 original (you know, the one with the notorious "canine flashback"), it's yet another cookie-cutter exercise in death by stupidity, focusing its Aliens-in-the-desert plot on a scrappy, ill-tempered unit of National Guard soldiers who've been sent to investigate the first remake's hellish aftermath in the bomb-tested wastelands of Nevada. (Like its far-superior 2006 predecessor, this sequel was shot on location in Morocco.) Unfortunately these bickering recruits are an embarrassment to their inauthentic-looking uniforms, and their reckless inexperience (not to mention a tired, uninspired screenplay by Craven and his son Jonathan) makes them easy targets for the ravenous, irradiated mutants who dwell within a treacherous network of tunnels and caves. As the generically! good-looking cast is reduced to a few terrorized survivors (which somehow doesn't stop costars Jessica Stroup and Daniella Alonso from looking like fashion models), music-video director Martin Weisz switches to auto-pilot in his dubious feature debut, serving up a basically plotless succession of grisly makeup FX by Howard Berger and his crack team of gore-mongers. The gross-out factor is sufficiently amusing (including one soldier pulled through a hole with one leg in the totally wrong direction), but even devoted horror connoisseurs will have to admit this is pretty lame stuff. --Jeff Shannon 28 weeks Later As an exercise in pure, unadulterated terror, 28 Weeks Later is a worthy follow-up to its acclaimed predecessor, 28 Days Later. In this ultraviolent sequel from Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (hired on the strength of his 2001 thriller Intacto), over six months have passed since the first film's apocalyptic vision of London overrun by infectious, plague-ridden zombies. Just when it seems the "rage virus" has been fully contained, and London is in the process of slowly recovering, an extremely unfortunate couple (Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack) is attacked by a small band of rampaging "ragers," and the cowardly husband escapes while his wife is attacked and presumably infected. Their surviving children (Imogen Poots, Mackintosh Muggleton) fall under the protection of a U.S. Army sharpshooter (Jeremy Renner), but nobody's safe for long as 28 Weeks Later goes into action-packed overdrive, with scene after blood-gushing scene of carnage and decimation. The film's visuals follow the look established in 28 Days Later, this time with bigger and better scenes of a nearly abandoned London on the brink of utter destruction. The military subplot gets a bold assist from Harold Perrineau (as a daring helicopter pilot) and Idris Elba (in a too-brief role as the military commander), and their firepower--not to mention the efficient lethality of helicopter blades--turns 28 Weeks Later into a nonstop bloodbath that's way too intense for younger viewers and guaranteed to leave hardcore horror fans gruesomely satisfied. That's all there is to it--this film is almost plotless and dialogue is minimal throughout--but as a truly terrifying vision of survival amidst chaos, 28 Weeks Later honors its origins and qualifies as a solid double-feature with Children of Men. Could there be another sequel? Thanks to the "chunnel," the answer in this case is definitely oui. --Jeff Shannon 28 Days Laters The director/producer team that created Trainspotting turn their dynamic cinematic imaginations to the classic science fiction scenario of the last people on Earth. Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma to find London deserted--until he runs into a mob of crazed plague victims. He gradually finds other still-human survivors (including Naomie Harris), with whom he heads off across the abandoned countryside to find the source of a radio broadcast that promises salvation. 28 Days Later is basically an updated version of The Omega Man and other post-apocalyptic visions; but while the movie may lack originality, it makes up for it in vivid details and creepy paranoid atmosphere. 28 Days Later's portrait of how people behave in extreme circumstances--written by novelist Alex Garland (The Beach)--will haunt you afterward. Also featuring Brendan Gleeson (The General, Gangs of New York) and Christopher Eccleston (Shallow Grave, The Others). --Bret Fetzer

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