Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 21 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Bloody Horror Violence and Torture, Grisly Images, Sexual Content, Nudity, Language and Some Drug Use
Directed by: Dave Parker
Written by: John Dombrow
Starring: Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrinck, Janet Montgomery, Alex Wyndham, William Sadler
THE HILLS RUN RED is a direct-to-video gem that winds up being the most self-aware slasher since the original SCREAM. Just because the movie is meta, doesn’t mean it can’t be a gritty or dark time. In fact, this movie gets downright nasty when it wants to. The killer is the creepiest villain to grace a slasher film in years. The script is also diabolically clever and constantly throws the viewer off-balance. However, the movie also comes with the baggage that most other films of this kind come with. Do the pros outweigh the cons though? Does THE HILLS RUN RED wind up being a memorable experience or will it fade into obscurity, much like the fake film that the story is set around?
The SCREAM series had the SLASH films that played in the background of the story. ANGUISH was set in a movie theater that was playing THE MOMMY. Now, THE HILLS RUN RED is based around a “lost film” titled THE HILLS RUN RED (of course). Tyler is a film student obsessed with this lost “blood and guts flick” from the early 80’s. The film was pulled from theaters shortly being released and has never been found in a complete print. Tyler, Sabrina (his girlfriend), and his best friend, Lalo, trek out to the original shooting location with the director’s strung-out daughter, Alexa, in tow. Upon arriving, they discover the horrible truth. THE HILLS RUN RED never stopped shooting and the murders are real. The director and the intimidating killer, Babyface, are still offing victims on camera and this group of four young people have found themselves cast in the film, so to speak!
The opening credits are disturbing enough, giving us a look into the origin of Babyface, with plenty of gore to boot. The production values are professional looking for the most part, but even with the professional camera work, you can tell when gore has been digitally added. The difference is crystal clear and the CGI is iffy, to say the least. Some potentially awesome kills are ruined by some fake looking post-production effects work. The practical stuff is awesome though. The kills aren’t what this movie is based purely around though, they’re just icing on the gory cake.
Without a doubt, the script is the best thing about the movie. It has a whole lot of twists and one moment that is nothing short of absolutely chilling (you’ll spot it when it happens). The ending is also super freaky and well-done, make sure you stay for the scene hidden in the first two minutes of the credits. The build up to Babyface’s first appearance is steadily paced, which makes for a nice change, especially in the slasher subgenre where everything is thrown up in your face to begin with.
Then there are the pitfalls in the movie. These mainly come in the frenetic fake scares edited into the film. You’ll have an interview with one of the students captured on camera and suddenly, for no reason other than trying to startle you, the film will cut to a random bit involving Babyface jumping out. This serves no purpose at all and feels a bit amateur. The acting from everything, save for two actors, is pretty iffy. William Sadler is having a blast as the film’s director and the guy playing Babyface is certainly scary. Everyone else does an okay enough job, but it definitely shows that they aren’t particularly good.
I can appreciate that THE HILLS RUN RED goes out of its way to stray from the conventions typically associated with slasher films, but it also unintentionally falls victim to the bad acting and unnecessary editing. The cliché of cell phones not having service is completely reversed. A character brings a gun just in case. The young people are also very aware of how these types of films play out and make the smarter decisions throughout. THE HILLS RUN RED would make for a good double-bill with BEHIND THE MASK. Both films have their faults, but they also toy with the concepts of the slasher film being twisted for the viewer’s entertainment. THE HILLS RUN RED comes recommended, but your should know before watching it that this is pretty much just a clever take on the average dead teenager flick.