The Hills Run Red (2009) Movie Review

The Hills Run Red (2009)
by Jesse Miller,

In 1982, controversial film director Wilson Wyler Concannon released his only film, The Hills Run Red. Because of its graphic depiction of sadism and murder, the film was quickly pulled from theatres. Film historians can find neither any prints of the film nor any of the cast and crew – only a poorly assembled teaser of the film.

Cut to the present day and fanatic horror fan and aspiring film-maker Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) is obsessed with finding the lost film, devoting all his free time to dissecting the trailer, director’s life and any other miniscule bit of information that his girlfriend Sarina (Janet Montgomery) feels neglected.

Tyler soon tracks down Concannon’s daughter Alexa (Sophie Monk) and convinces her, despite her hesitancy, to guide them to a possible copy of the film that may still be laying around in her dad’s old home out in the bush. So along with the help of Serina and Tyler’s friend Lalo (Alex Wyndham), they head off into woods, documenting their journey as they venture. What they find there, I will not go into.

The film starts off promisingly, with a slick, unsettling opening and a slow, creepy rendition of “Hush little baby”, to a boy slicing his face off in front of the mirror – a boy we’ll come to know early on as “Baby face”, a man that wears a creepy doll mask to hide his disfigured face. It’s a great opening, one that sets the mood perfectly for the horror to come.

From there on, the film begins to unravel smashingly, as the group head off on a road trip. As they ventures deeper into the woods, the characters express how they are savvy to horror movie clichés – how the flashlight inevitably fails, how there is never reception on the mobile at the worst of times, or how no one ever seems to bring a gun just in case a pack of rednecks decide to attack.

This referential humour isn’t as sharp as it was in Scream but as a horror fan, it was at least amusing to see these timeless issues addressed. That being said, actually including obscene, violent rednecks for some tension early on, without any trace of satire or a winking nod, is a lazy bit of writing.

The character of Baby Face feels like he could become this age’s Jason Voorhees – he’s menacing, seemingly unstoppable and whenever he pops up in the present things gets crazy. He even seems like a cross between Jason and Leatherface. It’s one demented bogeyman I actually want to catch up with in a sequel.

It is in the last half of the film where it all begins to become a bit of a surprising mess. The film suddenly becomes much more brutal, with more emphasis on torture and though I like that the filmmakers have pulled the rug out from under my feet, this sudden shift into nastier territory feels somewhat jarring.

William Sadler’s wonderfully demented film-maker makes an appearance, Sophie Monk’s acting kicks into overdrive and there are a few intriguing ideas here that I feel are a little bit incoherent. Even Baby Face’s presence is somewhat tarnished by a small, albeit still frightening, moment where he finally speaks. But having him softly humming “hush little baby” as he goes about his business is much more effective.

Despite being irked by some inclusions, The Hills Run Red remains a terrific little shocker conjured up by horror novelist David Schow (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw III), slickly directed by Dave Parker, accompanied by a wonderfully moody score by Frederik Wiedmann and featuring some fantastic cinematography and make up work.
Though there are certain annoyances, such as having poorly written main characters, some ridiculous, laughable moments and a few flat performances from the main cast, the break neck pace at which the film flows at allows you to forgive and forget these annoyances and be caught up in the ride.

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