Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring William Sadler, Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrink, Janet Montgomery
Directed by Dave Parker
It’s been a long time since director Dave Parker last entered the genre with his debut Full Moon zombie mash-up The Dead Hate the Living, having focused on documentary work such as Masters of Horror since then. Now, he tries his hand at the slasher genre with the much anticipated The Hills Run Red.
The Hills Run Red follows protagonist Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink), a film student obsessed with the titular movie – an obscure video nasty which disappeared from circulation shortly after release, all prints having apparently been destroyed. Legend has it that cast and crew were actually murdered on set when auteur Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler) took his attempts to bring totally realistic terror to the screen a little too far. Presumed dead, Concannon also disappeared from the face of the Earth shortly after the film’s release. Tyler ropes in his girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery) and best friend Lalo (Alex Wyndham) to assist him in creating a documentary as he attempts to find the truth behind the film, and locate a complete print.
If John Carpenter’s short Cigarette Burns taught us anything, it’s that notorious lost movies should usually stay that way, and when a contact tracks down Concannon’s daughter Alexa (Sophie Monk), the apparent only remaining member of the cast, Tyler finds her working as a drug-addicted promiscuous stripper. Forcefully putting her through cold turkey in her apartment, Tyler helps her get her mind straight and she agrees to act as his guide for the documentary.
As they set off for the woods and house which formed the original locations for the infamous flick, none of them have any idea of the terror that awaits them. The Hills Run Red never finished shooting – and someone is out there, still trying to capture legitimate fear, horror, and the most realistic death scenes possible….
Reviewing this film is actually very difficult, as the twists and turns are what make it so effective and even minor spoilers regarding where the story heads will have a detrimental effect on the first viewing. There are so many points in this movie where Parker sets up a scene, takes your expectations of what will happen, and then turns everything upside down. Almost every single cliché you’re used to seeing in a slasher flick is set up, then flipped around and thrown right back at you.
What starts off as a potential “young people stalked in the woods” flick mutates into something much more original, twisted, sick and plain entertaining around the half way mark. Once Concannon shows up, very much alive and well, this rollercoaster takes a whole new direction and very soon you’re forced to abandon what you think is going to happen and just sit back for the ride. It’s like Parker is saying to you “Forget about what you think you know – It ain’t gonna happen here.” That’s about as far as I’m willing to go into the storyline.
The cast are all great, and do their required running and screaming with gusto. Montgomery and Wyndham both come across very genuine as Tyler’s attention-starved girlfriend and best friend, respectively. The gorgeous Sophie Monk goes through the spectrum of sultry, strung-out, apathetic, faithful, terrified – and a lot more – and never feels forced. William Sadler deserves more than special mention as the mad auteur behind the original nasty – he’s simply fantastic and fills every single frame of screen time with a mixture of his own energy and the character’s pretentious ham.
Little flourishes and homages throughout The Hills Run Red stand testament to Parker’s love of the genre, for example a tree-ripping death is quite reminiscent of the wishboning scene from Fulci’s Demonia crossed with further late 70’s and 80’s Italian exploitation flicks. The fake trailer for the movie within the movie is also pitch-perfect, and foreign posters seen in Tyler’s room reflect the inventive illustrations of the period as well. Some of the CGI during the kills is a little ropey, but it’s easily excused considering the inventiveness involved in crafting them.
All of this love has also definitely been poured into the film’s killer – the awesome Babyface. This hulking brute is a creepy-ass wrecking ball, an iconic slasher design if ever there was one, right down to the use of the “Death Rattle” – once you hear it, you’re screwed. The opening credit sequence displays the real life Babyface’s origins and is an immediate bludgeoning of cringe-inducing gore, atmospheric lighting, loud, disturbing crashes of lightning and a climactic ear-piercing shriek of hatred and despair. This sequence alone is enough to convince that The Hills Run Red is miles ahead of the competition.
Since its completion, attentive horror fans have been waiting with bated breath, wondering whether this film will suffer the same disappearing act as the fake one it focuses on. Thankfully, it won’t and we should see a DVD release in the US on 29th September. If you’re a fan of slasher flicks, or even just truly inventive and twisted horror, you owe it to yourself to pick it up.
4 out of 5
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
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