October 22, 2009

The Hills Run Red

Every year we get a few horror films that get the horror-loving community excited. These movies are considered the cream of the crop and are often billed as the next great horror classic. Of course, this is hardly ever the case. However, while none of the have actually delivered on the lofty promises of their hype, they always bring something good to the table and always prove to be worth spending time with. These movies include the likes of Hatchet, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, and The Cottage. It just so happens that The Hills Run Red is another one of those movies. It arrives on DVD with a decent amount of hype that had me wondering if this could be the one as I sat down to take it in.

Coming out the other side of my viewing, I have to say "No." The Hills Run Red is not the next great thing in horror. It has some very good moments and is built upon a great idea. It is an idea that I am sure any fan of low budget, underground film making has thought of at some point over the year. The problem is that as good as parts of this film are, it is still quite flawed and disappointing. Still, when it comes right down to it, if you like horror you will enjoy this film.

At the center of the film is Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrinck), a film student and horror junkie. Tyler is obsessed with a lost video nasty called The Hills Run Red. It was an early 1980's horror film that was quickly pulled from theaters due to its depiction of sadism and horror. All prints were destroyed and the film's director, William Wyler Concannon (William Sadler), disappeared shortly thereafter never to be heard from again.


What is Tyler's angle? Simple, he wants to find the movie. He is convinced that a print still exists and is determined to find it. Tyler also wants to make a documentary about the film and his search for it. To help him out, he has enlisted the help of his girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery) and best friend Lalo (Alex Wyndham). The three of them head off into the woods with the newly found Alexa (Sophie Monk), daughter of Concannon and the only known living member of the movie's cast.

As our intrepid quartet heads into the woods, we learn that there is still someone in the woods. A murderous force still exists at the original filming locations. What is in the woods? What secrets do the movie within a movie hold? Who is Babyface?

To tell much more of the plot could come dangerously close to giving away vital information regarding the twists and turns. To that end, I am not going to give any more plot description. Suffice to say it gets a little crazy as the film picks up steam towards the end.

I love the idea of searching for a long lost film. I am sure many of you know how hard it can be track down a home video release of some small favorite film or underground gore-fest. Imagine the undertaking involved in looking for something believed to be completely gone? Beyond that, the image of the "genius" director who seems so in love with his own work that he becomes divorced from reality. Not exactly new ideas, but they are handled with here with style.

Beyond the ideas, The Hills Run Red do provide us with a great slasher villain. Babyface is a brute of a man who attacks without conscience. He is a mountain and when you hear that rattle there is no escape. He is no mere copy of Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees. Babyface is pretty scary. Very effective from the mask to the costume to the movements. I would definitely be interested in seeing more of Babyface.


The cast is decent at best. There were a lot of moments where they do not come across as being believable, particularly early on. This ties in with the screenplay by John Carchietta, John Dombrow, and David J. Schow. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but it does not ring true. It is far from the worst I have seen but it still could have been better.

My favorite performance is from William Sadler. I have seen him in countless films and he is always as solid as they come. He really takes hold of the eccentric director and sells it like a champ. There is something utterly convincing in the way he carries himself. I only wish he had a bigger role.

Dave Parker is the man behind the camera and he acquits himself well on the highest profile film of his career. He delivers an exciting film that relies on more traditional camerawork. There is very little shaky cam here. There are some interesting angles and nice shots. I was actually surprised to see his name next to "Director" as the last film I saw from him was the very low-budget horror film The Dead Hate the Living. That film was not very good but it has a lot of energy.


Audio/Video. This video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and looks pretty good. There is a little noticeable digital grain, but that is likely due to the low budget roots. Still, the colors are solid and there is a good black level. The overall quality does change a few times as we got to old film footage and camcorder footage. All of this aids the documentary style of the film.

As for the audio, it is Dolby Digital 5.1 and a lot of is up front as a loft of footage consists of characters talking to the camera. Later in the film there are some nice directional effects as Babyface bursts through doors and comes at you from all angles, not to mention some nice squishing sounds as people are stabbed with knives, axes, and other items of torture.

Extras. This Warner Premiere release has a couple of extras. What it lacks in quantity, it makes up in quality.
  • Commentary. This track features director Dave Parker, writer David Schow, and producer Robert Meyer Burnett. The track is a good one as they discuss all aspects of the production from writing, to the sets, to the effects, nothing is left out. It is never boring and worth giving a listen.
  • "It's Not Real Until You Shoot It": The Making of The Hills Run Red. This runs nearly half an hour and contains behind the scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew.

Bottomline. I like this movie. No, it is not a great one but it has some great moments and is built on a solid creative base. If you like horror you are going o want to see this. It is no game changer, but it knows what it wants to do and goes for it.



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