When you hear that a film went straight-to-video, what’s the first thing you think? “Must not have been good enough for a theatrical release,” right? Wrong. Never doubt that some truly amazing Horror offerings are never shown on big screens.
A film that proves this point in spades is 2009’s The Hills Run Red, a meta-movie directed by Dave Parker (The Dead Hate the Living!) and written by David J. Schow (who also penned A Nightmare on Elm Street 5, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, and The Crow). This major studio-production took over 2 years to make. Whether it had one or not, The Hills Run Red deserved a theatrical release and, in my opinion, could have been huge.
Don’t get me wrong: High art it ain’t, nor is it completely original. But The Hills Run Red is everything gore-hounds want in a film, a reinvention and revitalization of 80’s era Slasher films.
Read my review after the jump:
Official Synopsis: The story centers on a film fanatic whose obsession with finding a complete print of an infamous slasher movie leads him and two friends into the backwoods where the film was shot. They realize too late that filming never ended — and now they must survive a nightmarish onslaught or become part of the movie forever.
The group of horny 20-something protagonists is nothing new (is, in fact, a staple of most cabin-in-the-woods themed movies), but the crew in The Hills Run Red includes an outsider and love triangles. These innovations go a long way towards adding depth to the characters, making them seem human; we don’t hate their flaws because it’s what makes them relatable and we care about their fates. All are smarter than your stereotypical Horror movie victims, especially Lalo (Alex Wyndham) the best-friend/camera-man, who knows exactly how to prevent getting massacred in the woods: “Never leave the city”.
Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) is the intrepid leader, the charismatic personality responsible for propelling the film’s plot. But despite being the catalyst, his flaws are less forgivable; he cares more about his project than the safety of his friends (or the stability of his relationship). His obsession makes it impossible for him to empathize with his peers or see beyond his quest, his selfish motivations. It’s like the writer/filmmaker character Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler) says: “Everyone is expendable for the good of the film. Everybody.”
Sophia Monk and Janet Montgomery round out the cast as Alexa and Serina respectively. They serve as foils, both challenging the preconceived expectations of female characters in Horror. Neither is 2-dimentional or shallow—although we do get to see both of them topless.
Babyface (played by Raicho Vasilev) is one of the best Horror movie villains in recent memory. His fractured mask and deformed countenance beneath could both become iconic should The Hills Run Red achieve cult status. While he seems a mere reimagining of mute brutes Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, Babyface is complex and layered; despicable, pitiable, and conflicted.
Without making direct references, The Hills Run Red echoes a number of classic and recent Horror heavyweights like Deliverance, Scream, The Blair Witch Project, and Friday the 13th (to name a few). The film itself is full of subtext, a conversation with and about filmmakers and their motivations. In this way, I found a lot in common with George Romero’s Diary of the Dead. Compare these near identical quotes from the two films: THRR: “It’s not real until you shoot it.” DotD: “If we don’t get it on film, it’s like it never happened.” The film’s conclusion is macabre to the extreme and reminded me of the Masters of Horror episode Cigarette Burns. It addresses a common debate within our society regarding portrayals of violence: Is pushing the envelope, striving to create ever more extreme Horror offerings actually detrimental or even dangerous?
But before you go and think The Hills Run Red is just mental masturbation or pseudo-intellectual, I quote Alexa as she unhinges during the film’s feverish build towards climax: “No one cares about that subtext shit. Get to the kill!”
With literally thousands of gallons of blood used during filming, The Hills Run Red is a rare treat for those looking for a hard-core movie watching experience; nowhere near as devastating as A Serbian Film or The Seasoning House, but way above your typical formulaic slasher fair. The cinematography is rich, the effects are top-notch, and the acting is skillful throughout. The plot is well paced, intelligent, and compelling. But it’s definitely for Horror fans only; not for the timid or easily offended.
Stick around for a gut-wrenching Epilogue during the closing credits.
4 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|release date||September 29 2009|
|writer||David J. Schow, John Dumbrow|
|starring||Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrinck, William Sadler, Alex Wyndham, Janet Montgomery, Mike Straub, Ewan Bailey, Danko Jordanov|