Two years ago in this area of New Mexico desert that was once used for nuclear weapons testing thanks to its remoteness, a family was attacked and most of them murdered by the inhabitants there. Nobody is sure where they came from, but those locals are dangerous and mutated due to the radiation left over from the bombs, though as this is still a private U.S. Army site, hardly anyone goes there anyway. Hardly anyone except the army, and they have been setting up surveillance cameras around the bunkers, but when a troop of soldiers are ordered to find out what has happened to government men doing so, they head straight into a nightmare...
The remake of the seventies Wes Craven cult horror The Hills Have Eyes surprised many in not being too bad amidst a tide of weak reimaginings of classic and even not so classic works in the field. It did so well that a sequel was an inevitability, but then the original had been subjected to that treatment as well in the archive footage-filled The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, a film Craven fully admits he did solely for the money and most infamous for shoehorning in those clips from the original by allowing the pet dog a flashback. There was nothing quite so goofy here, as this time we were in your basic remake of Aliens territory.
Maybe even more than we were in remake of Hills Have Eyes territory, and there was quite a bit of Southern Comfort in there as well, notably when the can-do leader of the soldiers is picked off early on in the action. What was really lacking was the surprise element, and in replacing that with a generous measure of violence designed to turn the audience's stomachs the substitution was not much of an equal quality. So if there was something there for the gorehounds, then the feeling of second hand thrills would have taken the edge off even that, as this sequel had suffered in comparison with a recent horror hit that it resembled in The Descent.
The Descent scored over this by concentrating on the relationships so that when lives were at stake, we felt that all the keener, which was not the case here. The recruits that make up the cast are strictly from stock, with a couple making it hard to see what attracted them to military life at all: the intellectual Napoleon (Michael McMillian), and the woman who becomes his frequently squeamish sidekick, Amber (Jessica Stroup). They mark themselves out as survivors early on, although by the end we're not so sure of that either, but everyone else is on the victim register from the outset. What precisely this collection of troops was trying to achieve in the first place is none too clear, and you would be forgiven for thinking they are only present as mutant fodder.
In the better Craven works, and he co-wrote the script to this with his son Jonathan Craven, there is a thoughtfulness underlying the mayhem, therefore by concentrating on military characters fighting against an enemy which won't lie down they seem to be courting comparisons to the war the West was fighting in the Middle East at the time this was made. Alas, they don't have much to say about this apart from a futility about the combat being unwinnable thanks to a pessimistic outlook, and the analogy winds up looking pretty clunky. Director Martin Weisz keeps the action ticking along, but when this is by the numbers there's not much he can rely upon for suspense, and goes instead for shock, which in spite of a non-explicit rape scene is too calculated to be visceral in the manner intended. In other words, your typical 00s horror sequel. Music by Trevor Morris.