I don't get it. Where'd all the fanboy hate come from? This movie is okay. It's well made, it has a few good bits and it's basically 100% competent. The violence is pretty decent. Admittedly that doesn't mean the film's actually good, but as far as the horror genre's concerned, it's standing atop dizzying strata of badness. There's a long way further to fall beyond here, folks.
The problem is that it's not doing anything new that matters. This is the fourth Hills Have Eyes movie, but it's got the least interesting and developed mutants of all of them. The heroes I quite like, but we didn't come to watch them. We came for the gibbering cannibalistic retards and they feel like they've been thrown together from deleted scenes from the earlier films. They're generic. They get some new motivation in the "they want our women!" angle, but that's not the same as having personality. Admittedly I liked the blind one with spectacles and a gun, but otherwise I can't remember much about these guys even though only this morning I watched them kill a bunch of people.
There's a Nice Mutant, but that's traditional in this franchise and he doesn't really do anything. He leads the heroes down a couple of corridors and then just wanders out of the plot again. This time he's the Elephant Man rather than a girl of some degree of cuteness. That's the only thing he has going for him. The frustrating thing is that had the film wanted to, they could have done lots of interesting things with Nice Mutant. Unfortunately we don't get to know him as a person. What does he want? How would he behave if he thought you were pretty? What would happen if you angered him? These are all good questions, but you won't learn the answers to them in this film. These mutants are beasts, not men. Now I'm starting to get nostalgic for the 1977 original's mutants, who were mostly mentally unstable rather than retarded and would do things like harangue a severed head.
For the most part, these mutants hide in the ground and every so often pop up for twenty seconds or so and randomly kill someone. The script could have replaced them with exploding neck collars on random timers and it would be almost the same movie.
On the upside, this isn't just another remake pretending to be a sequel. It is different, thanks to the protagonists this time being National Guard trainees. They're soldiers. This had lots of potential to kick arse, with a proper military confrontation between soldiers and mutants. Imagine a war movie, but with the enemy being deformed radioactive cannibals. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately again the film fails to realise any of this potential, as its soldiers turn out to be another bunch of losers who bicker, split up and get picked off one by one. If they weren't wearing army uniforms, you'd think they were a college football team or something. They have guns, but this is America. Big deal.
Believe it or not, the soldiers' incompetence actually turns out to be the most interesting thing about them. Perhaps surprisingly the film doesn't have a political agenda, but it still introduces our heroes by making them look like cretins in a simulated Middle East gunfight situation. One Mexican chap (Jacob Vargas) is a macho imbecile who loses control every time he thinks he's being insulted. Yes, even during a firefight. He can't even keep his voice down when they're sneaking through Mutant Metropolis. However the amusing part is that he's short and physically unimpressive, thus making his testosterone outbursts even more stupid than they already are. Then there's our hero, who's the kind of intelligent person who can't stop himself from making helpful suggestions to his sergeant, which arguably makes him dumber than Vargas. Admittedly it's hardly new to have bubbleheaded heroes in a horror movie, but it is mildly amusing for them to be (approximately) the U.S. Army. I laughed like a loon at the friendly fire incident.
The only disappointment in the cast is Flex Alexander's sergeant, who manages to be boring even when yelling parade-ground invective. I'd never seen an actor screw up that kind of role. It doesn't make sense. How can anyone not have fun hurling that kind of abuse? However the actor is funny on the DVD gag reel and in the film he comes alive when being allowed to get whimsical about a lost shoe, so overall I'd say he was simply miscast.
Another new thing is the mines. Halfway through the movie, we go underground. This is at least a logical development, since we'd already known the mutants lived under there but we'd never followed them down. Novelty is good, but I think I prefer the original Mexican desert. It's a different, agoraphobic kind of horror and to me feels spookier. Besides, I don't remember the franchise having its name changed to The Caves Have Eyes.
With the forgivable exception of Flex Alexander, almost everything wrong with this movie is down to the script. It was co-written by Wes Craven and his son Jonathan, in case you were wondering. Movies traditionally escalate towards a climax, but this one goes downhill. The film's first half in the desert is better than its second half in the caves. The surprise ending is that we've reached the end at all, since the only thing to have happened recently is that an idiot died pointlessly through his own stupid fault and that the survivors fought a big mutant. The idiot's death is doubly frustrating, by the way, since the scene should have been hilarious but has been filmed in an overly dramatic way with lots of slow motion. I presume he'd deliberately been created to be the annoying one, which means we're happy to see him dead and the film should have known to be going for laughs.
On the other hand the big mutant's death is unintentionally very amusing indeed, since the punishment inflicted on him is almost at Wile E. Coyote levels. He's a rapist, you see. You're allowed to do anything to a rapist in Hollywood movies. There's also a stupid bit where the soldiers realise they're out of ammunition, but don't go and get the bullets of someone they just killed who was shooting at them.
I've been saying lots of bad things about this film, but for the most part these aren't crippling mistakes. They're just a drip-drip of missed opportunities. There are also individual bits I liked, such as the violent opening that made me laugh. "Are you lost?" There's nudity in the opening scene, with an ill-treated girl who's about to become the unwilling mother of a mutant baby. They want our women, remember? There's a toilet gag. Frankly, I didn't mind this movie at all. Its script is poor, but that's about it. The first half is good, the second half is okay and the whole thing would have become genuinely good if they'd just given it a proper ending. I'm not talking about overhauling the whole movie, but just putting ten or fifteen new minutes on the end. I'd have also preferred less stalking and more colourful violence from the mutants, but with this film the gore isn't the problem.