Hills Have Eyes 2 : The Team!Meh
As you already know we spent some time on the set of Hills Have Eyes 2 and will be continuing to bring you updates, and anecdotes on our trip, the film and its filmmakers. In the annals of modern fear, few films have had as deep an impact as Wes Craven’s 1977 cult classic The Hills Have Eyes. The landmark tale, reinterpreted in 2005 by sizzling hot “Splat Pack” filmmakers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, delighted and terrified a new generation of fans with its blood-soaked, horrifying update. In addition to box-office success, kudos came from the critics with The San Francisco Chronicle corroborating, “If studios insist on remaking classis horror films, this is definitely the way to do it… The Hills Have Eyes is a BLAST!”
Thus, with the public demanding more, film legend Wes Craven teamed up with his son Jonathan to bring us THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2. The pair wrote a gritty, ferocious, and relentlessly suspenseful tale of a very green National Guard unit which unwittingly ends up in mutant territory where their nastiest nightmares come terrifyingly true. The film is directed by cutting-edge filmmaker Martin Weisz, whose resent film Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story has both won acclaim and stirred up controversy for its graphic depiction of modern day cannibalism. Thus, the combined talents of Wes Craven and Martin Weisz create the ultimate horror experience not to be missed, and never to be forgotten.
In a career spanning more than three decades, Wes Craven has become a worldwide cultural phenomenon in film, television and literature. He reinvented the youth horror genre in 1984 with the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, which he wrote and directed, and in the next decade, he deconstructed the genre again with the mega-successful Scream trilogy. These two franchises alone have earned nearly a billion dollars and serve as a powerful demonstration of Craven’s profound understanding of the often unconscious desires and fears roiling in the human psyche.
“He’s a terrific storyteller, a compelling writer and a wonderful director,” says THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 producer Peter Locke, who produced, financed and distributed the original film in 1977. “He’s the master of the horror genre because he had early success in it and he’s figured it out probably better than anyone around.”
Craven’s success in probing the nature of fear began in 1972 with his first film, The Last House on the Left, and was taken to a whole new level of mastery with his second film, The Hills Have Eyes which quickly became part of the cultural zeitgeist with its unflinching tale of a mutant family preying on travellers in the New Mexican desert.
Because of the tremendous success of 2005’s update of The Hills Have Eyes, it seemed inevitable that a sequel wouldn’t be too far away. “The studio [Fox Atomic] said they were interested in a franchise and I thought it would be fun to do,” says Wes Craven. Wes continues, “…I said to the studio, my son Jonathan and I can write that [screenplay] in a month, and they said ‘ok’ and I said ‘ok’.”
Although Craven liked the idea of penning the screenplay with his son, he was also a bit apprehensive about how productive the collaboration would ultimately be. “There always seemed a sense like I was off in this kind of world working all the time and Jonathan was writing for magazines and e-zines, and you know, we had seldom worked together. And suddenly there was this opportunity…[but] I didn’t know how it would go. And you know what? It was really cool. [Jonathan] has this wild sense of humor. It’s that dark, dark humor that seems to run in the Craven genes - so we just played off each other... The film came together in a way that I think surprised us both, and we wrote [the first draft] almost exactly in one month. It was just two guys in a room and it was like two adults, it wasn’t dad and son so much. It was just two guys that had to get this thing done. It was a really nice bonding experience.”
The producers of THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 were delighted to have the two Cravens collaborating together. “When Wes decided he was gonna write it and do it with Jonathan, what could be better?” says Peter Locke. “I’ve known Jonathan since he was five years old, so it’s a great thing that it’s happened this way.”
Because of the short amount of time to write the screenplay, the two had to stick to a rigid schedule in order to get the first draft done. “ We outlined and /or wrote every day after that initial meeting,” Jonathan Craven adds. “We started at his house bouncing ideas around and beating out an outline for the first two weeks. Then, we started working out of a hotel room for a month so we could work without being interrupted every five minutes by phone calls, and such. We’d write from about nine am to nine pm seven days a week until we had a first draft about a month later. We worked separately, together—with kids they call it parallel play—with two desks in two adjacent rooms, close enough so that we could see each other and talk without shouting, but with a sense of proximal autonomy as well. We’d each work on scenes alone and then shuffle them back and forth.”
Wes Craven discusses how the story line for HILLS 2 came about: “Shortly after the first one came out, I proposed that we should do one where the girl from the family [Emilie de Ravin’s “Brenda Carter”] joins the National Guard to get over her fears, and ends up being sent back to the New Mexican desert. That didn’t flow because Emilie was doing “Lost” so she wasn’t available.”
Without their original HILLS character [“Brenda Carter”] to build a story around, the Cravens were forced to seek a fresh approach for HILLS 2 - one that would somehow surpass the edge-of-your seat terror of the first.
The two decided to look no further then today’s grizzly and tragic headlines for their subject matter. “What is going on right now historically is so important—the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism,” explains Wes Craven. “You know, clashing cultures. With all these monumental things happening, I felt that it would be interesting to do something involving American kids in uniform who are encountering, fighting an enemy that is totally inexplicable. They train for one thing, but then [what they end up doing] is something totally different.”
Jonathan Craven also found the soldier theme intriguing and worth exploring. “On some level, I needed to process all these stories and all this imagery about kids being sent into god-awful situations in Iraq and Afghanistan… The horrors they face are 1,000 times worse than anything you could cook up for a horror movie. I also think its inherent in the HILLS mythology. The original HILLS takes place on a military base… I think we thought the military would have to be brought into the equation at some point.”
To direct the Craven’s horrific tale of mutated mayhem, the producers knew they would need a true visual innovator. They started looking for someone with a distinct and original sense of both story and style—someone who could combine the powerhouse thrills of edge-of-your seat suspense with an artist’s sensibility. Thus, the Craven production team kicked into high gear searching for the right candidate.
“We did a massive search for our THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 director,” explains co-producer Cody Zwieg. “Literally hundreds of people were considered. Our challenge was to find someone who knew how to set up tension and scares, but was also able to concentrate on the characters in the film. We interviewed around twenty different directors over a period of six weeks and then narrowed it down to three.” After an exhaustive interview process that continued for several weeks, German-born Martin Weisz came away with the directing duties.
Weisz comes from a commercial and music video background, having directed such artists as Puff Daddy, Brandy, Meatloaf and LL Cool J. After enjoying unprecedented success in the music and commercial industry, Weisz found himself inundated with feature film offers, especially in the horror genre. “I think that because of my music video background, people always put me into this [horror] category,” says Weisz. “I love suspense and horror. I just think it’s a great genre, but unfortunately, its been turned into a popcorn genre to make it more commercial.”
He caught the attention of the Craven production team when they heard about his provocative and controversial first film Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story. The movie, a psychological/horror thriller based on a true story, explores a cannibalistic date between two men who meet on the Internet. Screenings of the film made headlines thanks to audience members fainting and vomiting during the movie’s more graphic scenes.
Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story was met with considerable critical success and went on to win the grand prize at the 2006 Luxembourg International Film Festival. Additionally, Weisz was named best director at the prestigious Catalonian International Film Festival in Sitges, Spain. Serendipitously, thirty years earlier at Sitges, Wes Craven won best director (as well as best film) for the original The Hills Have Eyes. Thus, Weisz seemed like the ideal candidate to captain a Wes Craven production.
“Weisz is a filmmaker that certainly is not afraid to do something controversial,” explains Craven. “Grimm Love is about human cannibalism, with all sorts of sexual overtones and everything that just makes a lot of people twitch, so that told me he wasn’t afraid of touchy material. He is [also] a filmmaker of great enthusiasm with a great sense of energy. He has done a lot of filmmaking in music videos and advertising which is tough and calls for a great visual imagination.”
The offer to direct THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 came as something of a surprise to Weisz. “I was prepping another film and got a call from my agent who asked me to read this script,” reveals the director. “So, I read it over the weekend. It’s really the script that attracted me to the film. It was really well written, and it was just different from what I had expected…. When I originally read it, I immediately thought of one of my all time favorite movies ever, Aliens. I thought, ‘Wow! Soldiers, caves, mines, mutants!’ I was immediately attracted.”
In order to get the screenplay in shape, Weisz spent hours with the production team scrutinizing every aspect of the script. “I had meetings with Marianne, Wes, Peter and Jonathan about what I thought about the script; then we all had meetings with Fox, and brought all the notes together,” tells Weisz. “Ninety percent of those notes went in the same direction, so we all came to the same conclusion.”