The Hills Run Red

Tyler (Hilgenbrink), is a film fanatic whose obsession with finding a complete print of an infamous slasher movie entitled The Hills Run Red leads him and two friends into the backwoods where the film was shot. Interwoven in the movie, the film-within-a-film, The Hills Run Red, is a particularly nasty piece of celluloid starring a demented killer called Babyface. The story goes that it was so extreme that it was pulled after a few screenings, and neither it nor its director, Wilson Wyler Concannon, were ever seen or heard from again. Tyler vows to track down the film whatever the cost, but little do they realise that filming of The Hills Run Red never ended and now they must survive the nightmarish onslaught of Babyface or risk becoming part of the movie forever.

While the plot maybe typical stalk and slash fare - a bunch of teens go into the woods and are stalked by a crazed mask-wearing killer - replete with the clichés of the genre, including lashings of violence and female nudity, the film differs from the traditional slasher movie by melding the genre conventions with a post-modern twist a la Scream and then twists those post-modern conventions back on themselves, leading to a particularly hilarious scene where the hero's best friend stands up to the killer rather than running - it looks like he suceeds too, that is until he’s shot with his own gun, the very gun which he brought to protect himself from any mass murderers or rednecks that were lurking in the woods!

You have to congratulate the casting director of The Hills Run Red - there’s not one bad performance throughout the film. William Sadler hams it up as a demented filmmaker Wilson Wyler Concannon; while the teen cast - Hilgenbrink, Wyndham and newcomer Montgomery are uniformly excellent, Hilgenbrink’s acting in particular has come on leaps and bounds since American Pie: Band Camp. However the true star of the film is Monk, former reality-show girlband member turned actress, who puts on an incredible performance as the daughter of Concannon - she manages to go from a junkie stripper to frightened teen, to deranged survivor without missing a beat - perhaps this generation’s scream queen? Who knows.

The Hills Run Red has a very nasty streak running through its short 81 minutes running time. Director Parker has really pushed the envelope in all aspects, and unlike many slasher movies has toned down the comedy which together make for a refreshing change - it’s good to see something potentially as sleazy as the video nasties of the early 80s in today’s all-too PC society. Although after the screening Parker admitted that the version of the film released is not everything he shot and that there may be a longer, more extreme cut at some point down the road. There’s definitely an 80s vibe to the film, besides the obvious slasher leanings, there are heavy Italian influences, especially the work of Ruggero Deodato, throughout the film. The theme of tracking down a missing film is straight out of Cannibal Holocaust and the ultra-gory “tree scene” is an obvious homage to (the uncut version of) Deodato’s Cut and Run. Parker also references Fulci in the same scene when he zooms in on the character’s eyes just prior to her demise - it reminded me of the infamous eyeball scene in Zombi. There’s also an homage to the giallo posters of the 70s - the name of which escapes me - as the killer, Babyface, loses his mask and it falls to the floor and breaks.

The Hills Run Red is a rollercoaster ride for horror fans everywhere. Why an excellent horror flick such as this is going direct to DVD when it’s far superior to the majority of the dreck that plays at the multiplex these days I do not know. But I urge you to track down the film on DVD or, even better, go find it playing at a film festival near you and see it how it should be seen - on the big screen.

Official Site
The Hills Run Red at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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