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Hillside Cannibals (2006)

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Starring Heather Conforto, Tom Nagel, Vaz Andreas, Tom Downey

Directed by Leigh Scott


It’s no secret that I’ve voiced my disdain quite often of late regarding The Asylum and their business practice of piggybacking off of big Hollywood genre flicks. That’s over. It’s a lost cause and I’m not getting worked up over it anymore. If making cheap DTV rip-offs of high profile Hollywood genre films makes them money, God bless them. If they can actually hold their heads up high knowing this is the kind of product they’re turning out, so be it. When The Asylum makes a new rip-off in the works I’ll probably do a story about it and be just as snarky as I would if I were reporting on Hollywood announcing another remake, Uwe Boll making another video game movie, or Charles Band announcing another film about puppet-sized slashers. If I see a movie by The Asylum I like then I’ll write a positive review and give them the credit I feel they deserve, and if I see a movie by The Asylum that’s so astoundingly bad that I kept having to pause the movie just so I could take a few moments to sit there and let it sink in how stupefyingly awful the movie I was watching really was… well, read on.

Believe it or not, I was actually holding out hope going into Hillside Cannibals. I’d heard through the grapevine that the folks in the Asylum’s office were actually quite high on the film. After seeing it, I think they were just high, period. That goes for every aspect of the making of this flop. There are moments in Hillside Cannibals where it’s almost so bad its good – almost. Mainly it’s just so bad. Where the hell to even begin with this one? I know – let me quote you from the back of the DVD case:

“The world’s most brutal serial killer was born over 400 years ago, Sawney Bean and his family pillaged, slaughtered, and literally devoured thousands of victims. Even today, the inbred clan of cannibals hides in seaside caves, feeding on the flesh of those who pass by.”

Sawney Bean and his clan were cave-dwelling, inbreeding, cannibal killers in 15th century Scotland. This movie is set in present day, and while the exact location of the setting is never specified, it’s clearly somewhere in the continental United States and that someplace isn’t even seaside. The only references to Sawney Bean in Hillside Cannibals comes whenever the leader of the clan dies; his replacement cuts off his face, puts it on his like a mask, and evokes the name of Sawney Bean. That’s it. That’s all there is connecting any of this to the Sawney Bean legend and the tagline on the DVD box claims that this film is “Based on the terrifying true story of the Sawney Bean clan that inspired The Hills Have Eyes!” I learned more from looking up Sawney Bean on Wikipedia than I did from watching this movie. I learned more from the description on the back of the DVD box than I did from the film itself. At no point does Hillside Cannibals ever make any attempt to give you any real explanation as to who these cannibals are, how they got there, why they live in these caves, or, for that matter, why they exist as hillside cannibals.

Hillside Cannibal‘s plot is actually quite simple, although that’s probably because there’s hardly any plot at all. Let me briefly summarize for you the first 45-minutes of the film.

Five young people head out into the rocky, cavernous hills of god knows where for a little spelunking fun. Three quickly get slaughtered, a fourth gets captured, and a fifth escapes. The fifth, being the fourth’s girlfriend, eventually composes herself enough to go back and find the hillside cave where he’s being taunted, tortured, and fondled by various members of the cannibal clan. She manages to sneak into the cave while all are asleep; they escape but don’t get far due to injuries hindering his ability to walk. He tells her to leave him behind and go for help, which she does, allowing him to get recaptured moments later. Rinse and repeat.

I know that doesn’t sound like a whole lot to cover a 45-minute span and you’d be right. We get about five minutes of opening credits and five more minutes of character development before the initial slaughter takes place. This leaves another half hour consisting of the girlfriend running around screaming before wandering around trying to find and rescue him, the boyfriend being tortured and what not by the cannibal clan, and an awful lot of seeing the clan dynamics inside the cave. I comprehend what director Leigh Scott was going for in attempting to capture the relentless, sometimes surreal tone of many a grindhouse horror film, but the way most of the cannibal clan members look and behave, it’s all far too goofy to be horrific and at times even quite embarrassingly bad.

Maybe it’s true about how movie violence desensitizes you because after seeing some of the recent Hollywood splatterfests, including the hard-R remake this film seeks to mimic, Hillside Cannibals’ attempts at torture porn just left me apathetic. Chop somebody’s arm off… Yawn. Cutting some fingers off with a pair of scissors… Seen it. Chopping a torso in half… What else you got for me? Nothing? Oh well. This might give some gorehounds their fix of blood and guts but me, I’m numb. Here’s an idea. How about somebody show me a real plot with fully fleshed out characters and that goes for both the victims and the killers? Wouldn’t that be a shocking horror movie twist these days?

So let’s meet the cannibal clan, shall we? Just don’t expect any names because the only time any of them are named is in the closing credits and I’ll be damned if I could tell you who’s who. I know the leader of the clan is a really old, decrepit looking man, at least I think it was supposed to be a man. The guy actually looked more like one of the Stygian witches from Clash of the Titans, which is only fitting because he sat on a throne that looked like it could be a piece of Skeletor’s patio furniture. Others include a guy that looks like Bulk from “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” made over to look like a smelly hippie – a character I’d swear we see get killed only to turn up alive in another scene minutes later. There’s also a young girl that looks sort of like Carol Kane post-electrocution, who’s really horny to get it on with the young guy with Maori-style designs painted on his face.

And then there’s the next in line to become leader of the clan, a guy that looks like a zombified Bill Paxton, often seen wearing a kilt and a baseball cap. The only entertainment value I found in the entire experience of watching this film was to marvel at the ridiculous scenes where this character goes off on these spirited tirades of total gibberish, utterly incomprehensible speech that other members of the clan can supposedly understand. None of the cannibals seem to speak a word of English, or any other discernable language, instead communicating through a combination of gobbeldy-gook and grunting sounds, but only this one character does so with any real gusto.

There’s no explanation ever given as to why this guy’s face is so deformed, whereas everyone else in the clan just looks like they need a bath. Could the production not afford special make-up appliances for everyone in the clan? It just doesn’t make any sense and, as I’ve said, the movie isn’t really interested in filling in any blanks. Although I must confess that I couldn’t help but laugh to see the crazy horny cannibal chick with dirt caked all over her face, a head of scraggily unkempt hair, and rotting teeth, but then you pan down and see those perfectly waxed legs coming out from under the mini-skirt she wears.

When the lead heroine comes across this guy in military fatigues that believes his daughters were either murdered by or assimilated into the cannibal clan, I was sure this was going to be the character that spells it all out, explaining the who, what, where, and how regarding the cannibal clan, Sawney Beam, etc. Nope. Even the theory he introduces about his daughters being assimilated into the clan as potential breeding stock is never followed up on. There’s literally no point for this character to exist other than to briefly rescue the lead, introduce himself, and then get killed off. He’s like the “Jason hunter” dude from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and every bit as effective as him, too

By the way, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he rescues her when she’s being chased by a clan member through the woods. THE WOODS!?!? WHERE THE HELL DID THESE WOODS COME FROM?!?! Nothing but rocky hills far as the eye can see and she’s suddenly shown running through the woods? And then after rescuing her, he tells her, “If you go, you’ll never come out alive.” Excuse me, but we’ve already seen her escape from them twice, even walking in and out of their cave lair undetected.

The film’s ending is one of those endings that leave you wondering “What was the point?” Indeed. Other than to make a cheap quickie rip-off to capitalize on The Hills Have Eyes remake, there is no point. However, The Hills Have Eyes – both the remake and the original – were actual movies. Hillside Cannibals, on the other hand, is a nearly plotless, certainly pointless failure plods along and is only slightly more competently produced than a lot of poorly made, no budget horror films written and directed by first-time filmmakers that were clearly in over their heads.

Let me wrap up this review by being the first to introduce to the world the Hillside Cannibals drinking game. Whenever the zombified Bill Paxton-looking cannibal starts spouting gibberish, raise your beverage up and exclaim, “Sawney Bean!” Every single time director Leigh Scott decides to use a shot of the sky or the moon as a buffer between scenes, take a shot. You’ll be singing the praises of Sawney Bean and be stupid drunk in no time at all, and stupid drunk is probably the best way to get through this ordeal.

0 ½ out of 5

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Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

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Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

Directed by Johnny Martin


When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.

 

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita


The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

  • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
2.0

Summary

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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Satan’s Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review – Sacrifice This Snoozer At The Altar!

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Starring Jack Kruschen, John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jacqueline Cole

Directed by Greydon Clark

Distributed by VCI


The ‘70s. Satanism. Sultry cheerleaders. Sex appeal. With these tools nearly any low-budget filmmaker should be able to turn out something that is, at the very least, entertaining. The last thing a viewer expects when tuning in to a film called Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) is to be bored to tears. But that is exactly the reaction I had while watching director Greydon Clark’s wannabe cult comedy. Even on a visual level this film can’t be saved, and it was shot by Dean Cundey! No, unfortunately there isn’t a cinematic element in the world that can overcome a roster of bad actors and a storyline so poorly constructed it plays like it was written on the day. The only saving grace, minor as it may be, is the casting of John Ireland as Sheriff B.L. Bubb (cute), a hard-nosed shitkicker who adds all the gravitas he can muster. But a watchable feature cannot be built upon the back of a single co-star, as every grueling minute of Satan’s Cheerleaders proves.

The cheerleaders and jocks of Benedict High School rule the campus, doing what they want, when they want, with little else on their minds except for The Big Game. Their belittling attitudes rub school janitor (and stuttering dimwit) Billy (Jack Kruschen) the wrong way. What they don’t know is Billy is (somehow) the head of a local Satanic cult, and he plans to place a curse on the clothes (really) of the cheerleaders so they… suck at cheerleading? Maybe they’ll somehow cause the jocks to lose the big game? When Billy isn’t busy plotting his cursed plans, he spies on the girls in the locker room via a hidden grate in the wall. I guess he doesn’t think being a sexual “prevert” is fair trade enough; might as well damn them all, too. Billy has his own plans to kidnap the girls, for his Lord and Master Satan, and he succeeds with ease when the girls’ van breaks down on the highway; he simply offers them a ride and they all pile in. But when Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole) gets hip to his plan the two tussle in the front seat and Billy winds up having a heart attack.

The squad runs off in search of help, coming across the office of Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland), who, as the name implies, may be a legit Satanist. Bubb invites the girls inside, where they meet his wife, Emmy (Yvonne De Carlo), High Priestess of their quaint little satanic chapter. While the girls get acquainted with Emmy, Bubb runs off to find Billy, who isn’t actually dead. Wait, scratch that, Bubb just killed him for… some reason. The girls figure out things aren’t so rosy here at the Bubb estate, so they hatch an escape plan and most make it to the forest. The few that are left behind just kinda hang out for the rest of the film. Very little of substance happens, and the pacing moves from “glacial” to “permafrost”, before a semi-psychedelic ending arrives way too late.

“Haphazard” is one of many damning terms I can think of when trying to make sense of this film. The poster says the film is “Funnier Than The Omen… Scarier Than Silent Movie” which, objectively, is a true statement, though this film couldn’t hope to be in the same league as any of the sequels to The Omen (1976) let alone the original. It is a terminal bore. Every attempt at humor is aimed at the lowest common denominator – and even those jokes miss by a wide berth. True horror doesn’t even exist in this universe. The best I can say is some of the sequences where Satan is supposedly present utilize a trippy color-filled psychedelic shooting style, but it isn’t anything novel enough to warrant a recommendation. Hell, it only happens, like, twice anyway. The rest of the film is spent listening to these simple-minded sideline sirens chirp away, dulling the enthusiasm of viewers with every word.

A twist ending that isn’t much of a twist at all is the final groan for this lukewarm love letter to Lucifer. None of the actors seem like they know what the hell to be doing, and who can blame them with material like this? I had hoped for some sort of fun romp with pompoms and pentagram, like Jack Hill’s Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) for the Satanic set, but Clark provides little more than workmanlike direction; even Cundey’s cinematography is nothing to want on a resume.

Viewers have the option of watching either a “Restored” or “Original Transfer” version of the 1.78:1 1080p picture. Honestly, I didn’t find a ton of difference between the two, though the edge likely goes to the restored version since the title implies work has been done to make it look better. Colors are accurate but a little bland, and definition just never rises above slightly average. Film grain starts off heavy but manages to smooth out later on. Very little about the picture is emblematic of HD but given the roots this is probably the best it could ever hope to look.

Audio comes in the form of an English LPCM 2.0 track. The soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a porno, while other tracks are clearly library music. Dialogue never has any obvious issues and sounds clear throughout. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

There are two audio commentary tracks; one, with director Greydon Clark; two, with David De Cocteau and David Del Valle.

A photo gallery, with images in HD, is also included.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Greydon Clark
  • Audio commentary with filmmakers David De Cocteau & David Del Valle
  • Photo gallery
  • Satan's Cheerleaders
  • Special Features
1.3

Summary

Although the title is enough to reel in curious viewers, the reality is “Satan’s Cheerleaders” are a defunct bunch with little spirit and no excitement. The ’70s produced plenty of classic satanic cinema and this definitely ain’t it.

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