Hills Run Red, The (2009)
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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