Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #149
Number of Views: One
Release Date: June 12, 2009
Sub Genre: Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 81 minutes
Director: Dave Parker
Producers: John Carchietta, Robert Meyer Burnett, Carl Morano, Roee Sharon, Jonathan Tzachor
Screenplay: John Carchietta, John Dombrow, David J. Schow
Special Effects: Ron Karkoska, Mark Villalobos
Visual Effects: Eran Barnea
Cinematography: Ilan Rosenberg
Score: Frederik Wiedmann
Editing: Harold Parker
Studios: Dark Castle Entertainment, Warner Premiere, Fever Dreams, Ludovico Technique
Distributor: Warner Premiere
Stars: Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrink, William Sadler, Janet Montgomery, Alex Wyndham, Ewan Bailey, Danko Jordanov, Mike Straub, Hristo Mitzkov, Georgi Dimitrov, Ekaterina Temelkova, Raicho Vasilev
Suggested Audio Candy:
Frederik Wiedmann Desiderio
Video Nasty. Two words which, when paired, have infinite meaning to any self-respecting horror aficionado. I’m no different to all of y’all and spent my waking hours waiting by the school gates for my shady death dealer, in the hope that his wares would include one of these seedy delights. Often their reputation was preceded and the grapevine was rife with whisperings of new levels of depravity and, more often than not, these claims weren’t justified. However, every once in a while, an uncut Zombie Flesh Eaters or The Burning would surface and I’d lick my lips like a deviant, before parting with my milk money.
There was typically one film a little more notorious than its counterparts. Abel Ferrera’s The Driller Killer was the ringleader in the UK, despite not necessarily living up to its infamy. The Hills Run Red focuses on one such ‘nasty’, a movie so wretched that all prints were destroyed after its maiden screening and all that remains is a grainy trailer and a whole lot of folklore. From early vantage, we are treated to a sneak peek at this monstrosity and a little suspension of disbelief is required to buy into the notion that this cause audiences to go off their rockers but, regardless, it looks like a whole heap of fun.
We follow Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) a rabid horror hound who obsesses with tracking down the director Wilson Wyler Concannon, who completely dropped off the radar after landing in hot water and becoming public enemy number one. Our inquisitive cinephile manages to track down Concannon’s daughter Alexa (Sophie Monk) and, after a little foreplay and assisted detox from smack, she reluctantly agrees to join him, his girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery) and best buddy Lalo (Alex Wyndham) as they head into dense woods to locate the director’s reclusive home and the elusive original film print.
It is during this engaging first act that Dave Parker’s film begins to threaten stepping away from the well-trodden formula and attempting something a little different. In the same manner as Ryûhei Kitamura’s superior The Midnight Meat Train, it showcases Tyler’s fascination with finding his Mecca as it sets up but, whilst our curiosities are peaking, Parker doubles back and makes the decision to remain firmly in slasher territory. It isn’t long before we are introduced to our snuff-merchant Babyface and, upon his introduction at around the half-way mark, it looks like we may well be back in business.
There has been a real dearth of iconic slasher newcomers over the past few years, with this doll-faced dread head certainly cutting a more imposing figure than the lion’s share of sorry hopefuls and is not averse to breaking into the occasional sprint as he hunts down his quarry. When the kills come, they are suitably grisly although CGI is preferred to practical effects on a couple of occasions which always dismays me. Nevertheless, one in particular stands out with ease and involves a hapless victim spring-loaded between two trees which proceed to pull her taut until she bursts like an overblown gum bubble, in a sickening wishboning which many will still be talking about long after the final credits have rolled.
Then we have the unhinged Concannon himself. In his tastiest role in years, William Sadler gives a great twisted account of himself and taunts and teases his young protegé with menacing conviction. The plot in the final third begins to become overly convoluted and, once more The Hills Run Red looks set to go astray at the final hurdle. Fortunately Parker has done enough by this point to convince us that the trip has been worth taking and any subtextual indiscretions can be immediately overlooked.
There are other noteworthy differences from so many of its copycat slasher contemporaries and one of these involves Tyler’s itinerary for the backwoods jaunt in question. Surprise, surprise…cells actually hold their signal so these are packed along with a firearm and flares in case the flashlight packs up mid-trip. Ironically, these all end up used against the obsessive lead and his beleaguered chums as a big ‘fuck you’ for attempting to be crackerjacks. Outside of that, there are numerous nods to the movies which inspired this piece of work in the first place and one memorable touch is the horror paraphernalia adorning Tyler’s walls, which includes a well-designed eighties-style poster for Concannon’s berated nasty.
Dave Parker had already endeared himself to many horror buffs with his 2000 film The Dead Hate The Living under Charles Band’s production umbrella. The Hills Run Red will no doubt have won him some new fans as, what it does correctly, it nails with some panache. Overall it’s a tad uneven and not quite unsavory enough to be considered half the nasty of the film it baits us with so early on. Hunt it down by all means although I would say this. Don’t become fixated by finding a copy as it’s not worth losing your head over.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Rating: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Gorehounds may be a little bemused by the slender head count but, while The Hills Have Red isn’t an out-and-out splatter fest by any means, it does have some rather delectable moments hidden away within its innards. Meanwhile, five fifty-five gallon drums of fake cruor were used for the scene in which the hills actually run red with blood. As for bountiful booty, well there’s a fair flesh platter on exhibit. Most notable is Sophie Monk who takes her perky puppies for a walk round the block more than once.
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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