The Hills Run Red (2009)

Fictional director Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler) made a horror movie in the 80’s that was so barbaric and so gruesome that it was never granted a release. Dubbed the scariest film ever made by the handful of people that had seen it, the film and its infamous director, not to mention the actors and production team involved, disappeared shortly after and were never heard from again.

In the present day, a group of horror film obsessives decide to go in search of the lost film and make a documentary about it in the process. Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) manages to track down Concannon’s daughter Alexa (Sophie Monk) who starred in the movie as a girl and is now making ends meet by working in a seedy strip club, and persuades her into tagging along on their quest to find the notorious film. They soon find themselves in the same woods that the movie was filmed in and before long find they’re not alone. The movie’s killer, a terrifying creation wearing a hideously grotesque doll mask and dubbed ‘Babyface’ appears to be stalking them. But he’s not real, right?

Beginning with a scene that features a child taking off his own face with a pair of scissors, in gory detail, The Hills Run Red is a film that boasts liberal amounts of fake blood and gore from start to finish. The effects are done nicely and are enough to make even some of the more seasoned gore-hounds flinch once or twice – I know I did. The flashbacks to the titular imaginary movie are inventive and brutal and the rough trailer featuring lashings of pretend blood running down the side of a hill is done exquisitely and perfectly recalls genuine trailers from that bygone era.

Filmed entirely in Bulgaria and featuring a cast consisting of mostly Brits and an Aussie model, The Hills Run Red actually uses its actors and setting really well. Although most people involved are employing false American accents, none of them wavered for a second and the Bulgarian woods are a fine substitute for their US counterparts.

The plot itself is reminiscent of the Masters Of Horror episode ‘Cigarette Burns’ and for that it’s difficult to award it any originality points but it at least re-treads a familiar story competently.

The acting is a little hit and miss throughout. Whilst most of it is believable, none of it is really standout stuff and even the normally fantastically reliable character actor William Sadler suffers from some questionable scripting in the second half. Alex Wyndham and Janet Montgomery are both attractive and capable of replicating sincere emotion but still manage to be lamentably expendable. Sophie Monk, not having had much acting experience, should have been much worse than she actually is. Despite some of her more cringe-worthy scenes towards the end, she gives a credible performance even though the scripting means her character is actually a little preposterous.

Regardless of the scripts’ failings, it still manages to include some nice in-jokes for genre buffs and has its share of clever moments, particularly a scene in which one character bemoans the stereotypical lack of phone signal in the woods only for another to dismiss them by claiming theirs has a full, uninterrupted signal.

The Hills Run Red has a solid and interesting, if not entirely original, premise and a terrifying antagonist in ‘Babyface’ but it suffers from a script that’s not nearly as clever and knowing as it thinks it is and some poor plot development. While not a completely wasted opportunity, given the promise it had it ends up feeling a little too much like the prosaic slasher flick that we’ve seen a million times before. At a short 81 minutes though, it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

2 Comments on “The Hills Run Red”

  1. Jamie Carruthers says:

    I didn’t love this, but there were some really neat parts. Particularly the “you can carry on singing if it makes you feel better”.

    That bit had me squeeing all over the place.

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