(A.k.a. THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 3; THE HILLS STILL HAVE EYES; THE OUTPOST)
"Loose ends come back to haunt you ...".
Several scientists are holed up in the middle of a remote desert, occupying a former underground nuclear bunker. The work they're conducting concerns experimenting with the possibility of re-animation.
One morning the scientists happen an apparent suicide case - a man named Thor (Dan Blom). Head boffin Stockton (Lance Henriksen) suggests they inject the subject with a virus they've been developing and take him back to their facility for further tests. The other scientists are reticent, but eventually agree with this line of suggestion.
Fast-forward six months. Stockton has left the project and to return to his home in America to look after his surly teenage children. He disagreed with how the experiments were going, and his departure has left disagreeable Alex (John Diehl) effectively in charge. Understandably, the team are going a tad stir crazy in the facility - not least due to the fact that Thor has yet to regain consciousness (it's not much fun being stuck in the middle of nowhere while tending to a man who's sleeping in a medical tent). Half of the team are sticking it out purely for the promise of a big pay-day once the project ends, while the likes of sassy Joanne (Claire Stansfield) have a more ethical approach.
But lo, the team suddenly have a "code red" on their hands when Thor awakens and his condition is swiftly determined as being critical. Alex is quick to call on Stockton, who's on the verge of embarking on a family vacation. Of course, Stockton doesn't want to know ... to begin with. His conscience, however, gets the better of him and he cancels his camping trip with his kids. Daughter Wendy (Natasha Gregson Wagner) is not best pleased and a compromise is soon reached: Stockton will take the kids (Wendy, her useless boyfriend [Mark Adam Solomon] and her metal-obsessed stoner brother Scott [Giovanni Ribisi]) to the desert, pop in on his old colleagues to save the day, and then proceed to the family holiday as originally intended.
Ah, best laid plans and all that.
Unbeknownst to Stockton, Thor has recovered from a cardiac arrest in the meantime and sprung into life, going on a murderous rampage in the bunker. This leaves Alex, Joanne and jokey co-worker Rob (Gregory Sporleder) alive and holed up in the facility looking for an escape route. One more complication becomes apparent: Alex has gone power-crazy, planning to exploit this miraculous turn of events for profit, and is prepared to hold his fellow survivors at gunpoint in order to secure his own safe exit from the facility ...
Enter Stockton and his family, who unwittingly pit themselves against a mutant Thor with murder in mind.
MIND RIPPER's life began when producer Peter Locke got in touch with late director Wes Craven and proposed the development of a second sequel to their 1977 classic THE HILLS HAVE EYES. The initial script presented to them was based in space: something that Locke recoiled from. However, Craven then passed it to his son Jonathan who developed it further with co-writer Phil Mittleman and this desert-based bastardisation was born. Craven Jr also took over the role of producing proceedings, while relative newcomer Joe Gayton was drafted in to direct.
Though the film went straight to video in the 1990s, it's actually a surprisingly entertaining proposition. Henriksen is always good value for money, and he's flanked in agreeable style by the energetic Stansfield, amiable Sporleder and a young Ribisi. The direction is taut, allowing for the trashy tale to be delivered to us in a gratifyingly flab-free fashion.
Sets are basic but do their job, calling to mind the likes of ALIEN and THE THING in their design. The gore is basic but fun, while the ante ups in ludicrously entertaining style during the film's manic final act.
MIND RIPPER is spirited, unpretentious genre fun. Don't expect high art: it may flirt with the ethics of playing God during earlier portions of dialogue, but such delusions of seriousness are soon dispensed with as Gayton ladles on the exploitative tropes with wild abandon.
It's not a patch on the original THE HILLS HAVE EYES of course (and has nothing to do with it, other than Wes Craven "presents" this one), but MIND RIPPER is far better than THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2. But then again, so is athlete's foot.
88 Films bring MIND RIPPER to UK blu-ray on a region B-encoded disc which presents the film in its original 1.78:1 ratio. Benefiting from full 1080p HD resolution, this transfer has been newly struck from the film's original negative and is presented as a keenly-sized MPEG4-AVC file. The film is uncut (95 minutes and 41 seconds in length) and looks very good here. Strong contrast, smooth image flow, accurate flesh tones and vibrant colours (the red blood really stands out) are highpoints of what constitutes a clean, sharp and satisfyingly filmic presentation.
English audio is treated to a DTS-HD Master Stereo mix
The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, a pop-up scene selection menu allows access to the film via 8 chapters.
Bonus material kicks off with an enjoyable 40-minute featurette entitled "Stories from the Outpost". This is a chat with talkative, amiable Jonathan Craven. He's full of info - how the script started as a $20,000.00 joke; the fact that the film was shot in Bulgaria, and not New Mexico as had originally been intended; the pratfalls of working with a non-English speaking crew; a couple of anecdotes involving acquaintance OJ Simpson; how the script evolved; the big deal that was the World Cup at the time of the shoot, etc. Craven is a fluent interviewee, ensuring this 40-minute chat zips by agreeably while cramming in loads of interesting trivia along the way. This well-edited piece is interspersed with clips and stills throughout.
Next up is the film's original 2-minute trailer. This is in healthy shape, albeit grainier and more worn than the main feature, and provides its own source of cheesy entertainment.
We also get a 4-page colour booklet containing pertinent liner notes.
As is the norm for 88 releases, this blu-ray comes in a keepcase with double-sided reversible cover artwork. A limited first run also includes additional collectors' slipcase packaging.
MIND RIPPER is good 1990s genre fun. It looks great on 88 Films' blu-ray and the new interview with Craven Jr is a big bonus.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|