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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

The Hills Run Red

The Hills Run Red
2009 (2009) - Warner Premiere
Released on DVD on September 29th, 2009

If you want a movie's reputation to skyrocket, one of the best things you can do is make it virtually impossible to see. This technique seems to work especially well with horror movies. Horror is already a slightly forbidden fruit, so the harder it is to see, the scarier it must be. It's no coincidence that one of the most legendary lost films of the silent era, Lon Chaney's London After Midnight, is a horror picture. More recently, Paranormal Activity shrewdly built pre-release buzz by screening only at midnights in a few cities while threatening to only go into wide release if enough people demanded it.

Director Dave Parker uses a clever twist on that idea in The Hills Run Red. The titular film within the film is a notorious 80s-era slasher flick made by the reclusive Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler). The movie caused such an uproar that Concannon withdrew all prints from circulation and vanished, leaving behind only a trailer. Tad Hilgenbrinck plays a horror junkie/aspiring filmmaker obsessed with tracking the movie down. He locates Concannon's daughter (Sophie Monk) and drags his best buddy and girlfriend out into the middle of nowhere to make a documentary and hopefully find the movie itself. The group doesn't expect to run into Babyface, the movie's masked killer, in the flesh but that's exactly what they get.

The Hills Run Red has a lot going for it, starting with a strong premise fleshed out by a self-aware script by horror author David J. Schow. Babyface is a great looking addition to the pantheon of masked maniacs and Sadler is a lot of fun as the ringmaster behind everything. Unfortunately, it falls short of being a hidden gem. The movie's weakest link is Hilgenbrinck. He's nowhere near charismatic enough to shoulder the burden of a leading role. We're told repeatedly of his obsession with this movie but there's no passion in his performance to convince us of it. The movie is smarter than some horror flicks and it's refreshing to see Parker and Schow play with some of the usual slasher conventions. But whenever the momentum drops (which early on is frequently), you're given too much opportunity to poke holes in the movie's basic premise. Still, the parts of the movie that do work, work extremely well, making it impossible to dismiss the whole thing outright.

The Hills Run Red was made for the direct-to-video Warner Premiere label and it looks and sounds rather handsome on DVD. I'm not entirely sure why the powers-that-be decided this one didn't warrant a Blu-ray release, especially since most of the other Warner Premiere titles did, but there it is. Extras include an engaging audio commentary by director Dave Parker, writer David J. Schow and producer Robert Meyer Burnett and It's Not Real Until You Shoot It, a making-of featurette that essentially takes the form of a video production diary. If you like the movie, both are interesting and worth your time. If you don't, nothing here will change your mind.

The Hills Run Red falls squarely into the new wave of retro-minded slasher movies, titles like Adam Green's Hatchet and Rob Hall's Laid to Rest that evoke the style of 80s horror. For the most part, these aren't post-modern commentaries like Scream so much as they are love letters to the form. None of these movies have quite hit it out of the park yet but The Hills Run Red comes as close as any so far.

Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B-

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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