While we’re on lockdown, I’ll be working on a series of retrospectives as I watch through my library. Many will be films I love but I may veer into less favorable territory from time to time to keep things interesting. I hope you all are all staying safe out there. Next up on my quarantine re-watch list is Dave Parker’s The Hills Run Red.
The fact that The Hills Run Red went direct-to-DVD is a major injustice. There is a stigma associated with films that are unceremoniously dumped on home video. And the studio’s decision to send Hills straight to DVD caused a lot of fans to overlook it at the time of its release. I avoided the flick for a long time after its direct-to-video debut from the now defunct Warner Premiere. I assumed that it was poorly made or somehow lacking because Warner didn’t have the faith in it to give the picture a theatrical bow. But that’s far from the case. The Hills Run Red is a solid horror offering that has never been given its due. It’s one of the most underrated slasher films of the new millennium and it’s a shame that a larger audience hasn’t been given the chance to appreciate it.
The Hills Run Red takes a decidedly meta approach to its narrative: The flick flows a documentary filmmaker named Tyler and his crew as they journey to the middle of nowhere in search of the only print of a notorious slasher film called The Hills Run Red. The movie is said to be so reprehensible that it was pulled from theaters almost immediately after its release. Those that did see the picture remember it as being disturbing and shockingly realistic in its depiction of death. All that remains now are a trailer and a handful of production stills. But Tyler is hopeful that if he can track down the director, he may be able to locate the original print of the film within the film for use in his documentary.
As I mentioned before, the film is very meta: Not only is there a movie within the movie, the documentarians are also making a film about The Hills Run Red. There are also plenty of self-aware remarks as to why stupid characters in slasher films get killed, how to overcome those common pitfalls, and lots more of the like.
One thing I really like about the flick is that Parker uses unnerving musical cues, well-timed scene transitions, and misdirection to keep the viewer alert and engaged. The picture is laden with twists and turns that kept me on my toes from the get go.
As for the effects, fans of carnage will have no complaints. The arterial spray is delivered early and often: The deaths are brutal and the bloodshed more than ample. The film dips into torture territory for a moment but it’s to allow the filmmakers to comment on their disapproval of the horror genre’s devolution into the masochistic world of pseudo-snuff filmmaking.
All of the performances from the film’s lead characters are acceptable; acting isn’t the picture’s strongest asset but it doesn’t ruin the experience, by any means. Sophie Monk (Life Blood) delivers the weakest performance of the bunch but she is still bearable.
The Hills Run Red combines elements of the slasher sub-genre with a mysterious backstory and a heavy dose of self-awareness to create an intriguing feature with twists and turns that are likely to keep the audience guessing until the end. The picture is fast paced and thrilling; it defies the conventional horror tropes and makes its own rules. If you have avoided it because you thought it was low-quality, direct-to-video output, give the film a chance. It’s well worth adding to your collection if it isn’t already in it.