Preview: Hills 2

The original 1977 HILLS HAVE EYES is one of my very favorite horror movies. Seriously, I think it's a ice-water splash-in-the-face ass-kicker that still holds up pretty well today. So when I heard they were mounting a remake, I got annoyed. Then when I learned that Wes Craven was still involved, I was curious. And then after I saw the flick, I was impressed. And THEN I heard that Fox was planning to make a sequel to the remake that was a whole lot better than it had any right to be -- and the cycle started all over again. I went from dismissive to curious to... and then JoBlo.com/Arrow in the Head was invited to visit the set (and I was chosen to go on their behalf). Now, I've got enough experience in this business to not get all geeked out and ranty just because I was invited to visit a movie set, but I'd be lying if I said the production wasn't pretty damn impressive.

So over the course of my 2+ days on and around the HILLS 2 set, I was struck by one very clear thing: These folks were not, despite what people like me often believe, trying to churn out a quickie-crap sequel just to strike while the iron was hot. As I wandered around and met cast and crew member alike, one of the most common questions I received was "What did you think of the HILLS remake?" See, most of the HILLS 2 folks also worked on last year's remake, and they actually cared about what I thought of the movie. And as I stopped off and spoke to editors, costume designers, art directors, and producers, the main topic of conversation was "how to please the folks who dug the first flick."

Everyone on the set might have been feeding me a great line of BS, but I doubt it; just about everyone I met wanted to "talk horror" -- and every time one of the gore-caked mutants walked by everyone would look around and say "Jesus Christ that's gonna scare the crap out of everyone." These were craftsmen discussing their work just like a painter or an engineer might: with a whole lot of unbridled enthusiasm. And if they were faking all of it, then the entire HILLS 2 gang should apply for SAG cards, because they're really good actors.

Over the course of two sweltering days in Ouarzazate, Morocco, I (and a small gang of awesome horror-geek reporters) were able to shoot some breeze with producer Marianne Maddalena, co-screenwriter Jonathan Craven, cinematographer Sam McCurdy, editor Kirk Morri, production designer Keith Wilson, costume designer Katie Bryant, and actors like (the stunningly gorgeous) Daniella Alonso, (the amazingly gracious) David Reynolds and gentle giant known as Derek Mears. (These last two guys play a pair of cannibal mutant freaks, and yet they were among the sweetest people on the set -- despite the fact that they were covered in muck and make-up in 90-some-degree weather.) We got to watch part of a crazy rescue sequence being shot, were allowed to wander through the massive "underground lair" of the mutated beasties, and got a tour through one of the niftiest gore factories you ever will see. (To me it felt like a trip through Wonka's chocolate factory.)

And throughout both days of our "meet, greet, that gore sure is sweet" session, I was (quietly and oh-so-slyly) scanning the set with a cynical eye. See, as exciting as this trip was (and it was), my main concern is (of course) for the movies. As I poked around, overheard a few conversations, and shot a lot of breeze with everyone from THE Wes Craven down to the youngest camera assistant, I got the impression that these folks actually gave a wet slap about the movie they were making -- even if it IS "just a sequel to a remake of a classic." And as someone who generally only deals with the "final product," I found their attitude and work ethic pretty refreshing. Whether or not said work ethic will translate into a solid flick remains to be seen (HILLS 2 opens on March 23rd), but I can say with total honesty that the HILLS 2 crew put a whole lot into this sequel.

Plus they promised me it would be extra-nasty, and that made me happy -- because PG-13 horror flicks are really for the birds, aren't they?

Expect a lot more HILLS 2 goodies -- interview, pics, trailers, gore, etc. -- as the release date draws closer! Mwahahaa!



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