Monday, August 20, 2012

#735. The Hills Run Red (2009)

Directed By: Dave Parker

Starring: Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrink, William Sadler

Trivia: Director Dave Parker wanted to use the song "Babyface" in the opening credits, but couldn't get the rights to it

The Hills Run Red is an above-average modern slasher, taking the simple tale of a young filmmaker’s attempt to track down a legendary motion picture and turning it into something brilliantly twisted.

Back in 1982, a director named Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler) released a movie titled The Hills Run Red, a horror film so graphic and depraved that it was almost immediately pulled from theaters. Soon after, every print of the film vanished without a trace, as did Concannon and his entire cast. 

Twenty-five years later, the movie’s very existence is considered little more than a myth, yet for budding director Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrinck), locating a complete print of The Hills Run Red has become an obsession. With the help of Concannon’s drug-addicted daughter Alexa (Sophie Monk), as well as his own girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery) and closest buddy Lalo (Alex Wyndham), Tyler slowly unravels the mystery behind this infamous motion picture. 

But is he ready to discover the truth?

The Hills Run Red is every bit as grisly as its title suggests, and we get to glimpse its viciousness in the film's opening moments, when a young boy cuts his own face to shreds with a pair of scissors (I was especially shaken by the shot of him slicing off his lower lip). 

From there, The Hills Run Red settles into a mystery of sorts, which lasts for approximately the first half of the movie, and while the story was told well enough, the horror was kept to a noticeable minimum (excluding the film clips that sometimes play in the background, like when Serina and Lalo are watching the Vincent Price classic, The House on Haunted Hill). 

The performances at this stage are a mixed bag; Hilgenbrinck comes off a little too eager as Tyler, beating us over the head with his “aw, shucks” enthusiasm, while Sophie Monk shines as Alexa, sultry and alluring one minute, out of control the next. There’s even a hint of cynicism towards the genre, a la Scream, as the characters occasionally have a laugh at how stupid the teens are in horror movies, and pay the ultimate price by ignoring obvious warning signs. 

But as their investigation intensifies, The Hills Run Red takes a sharp turn towards the bizarre, tossing out a fair number of thrills and chills, and an even greater amount of gore.

Amidst all the carnage are several homages to the slasher films of the ‘80s. Early on, Tyler watches a trailer for The Hills Run Red, the only proof there is the movie existed, and it’s filled with plenty of nods to that era (a masked killer roaming the woods, taking out every teen he comes across). Even Tyler and his gang, in their search for answers, end up putting themselves in the same kind of peril as their counterparts in the ‘80s. 

Along with being a solid horror entry in its own right, The Hills Run Red pays tribute to the films that inspired it, making it doubly rewarding to fans, who will surely smile at the references to yesteryear as they’re being terrified anew by the slaughter playing out before their eyes.

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