Starting out working for Charles Band's Full Moon Pictures, Dave Parker helmed the zombie themed horror-comedy The Dead Hate the Living back in 2000 which has gathered a fairly decent cult following over the years. Now he's returned to the genre, nine-years-later, for this direct-to-DVD effort, The Hills Run Red. Finally seeing release under the Warner Premiere label, Parker's newest film doesn't quite live up to its early hype and isn't quite as "awesome" as some people might lead you to believe, but it's a perfectly competent old school flavoured slasher movie with enough demented twists in the final third to make it an interesting, somewhat flawed, and generally entertaining time.
Things definitely kick-off to an unsettling start as we see a young boy cutting the skin from his face while a whispery version of traditional lullaby "Hush Little Baby" plays in the background. It's a great set-up and promises a lot more to come but, unfortunately, remains the most memorable scene in the entire film. From there we're introduced to horror movie fan Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrinck) who's become quite obsessed with an ultra-rare 1982 slasher movie entitled, "The Hills Run Red". Directed by the elusive Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler), it's said to be so disturbing and violent that barely anyone has seen it as it was quickly pulled from theatres. Thus, it's become a sort of 'Holy Grail' for Tyler and he decides to setout to track down a copy of the film.
His research leads him to Concannon's daughter, Alexa (Sophie Monk), who has fallen on hard times and is currently stripping and a heroin junkie. After helping her get clean (in what must be a new record of three days!), he gets her to agree to take him, his best friend Lalo (Alex Wyndham) and his girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery) to various filming locations and her father's cabin in the woods.
It's here that the script by David J. Schow (The Crow, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) blends celluloid with reality as our intrepid detectives soon find themselves under siege from the porcelain doll masked psychopath "Babyface" from Concannon's infamous movie. The remainder of The Hills Run Red treads on a familiar slasher flick path but Schow manages to throw things for a generally pleasing, if not always plausible and somewhat pretentious, loop in the final third with a handful of twists ranging from predictable to "Huh, didn't see that one coming".
While watching The Hills Run Red it's obvious that this is a labour of love for director Parker and that he's a fan of the genre. He's got a solid grasp on what makes a decent stalk 'n' slash film and gets a lot of mileage from the hulking form (and memorable visage) of his killer. He also peppers in some flashback scenes that give the film a bit more bloodshed and never feel unnecessary. But the thing I most admired was the fact they've put up some mock movie posters in Tyler's apartment that lovingly capture the drive-in feel as well as created a fake retro trailer that's all sorts of awesome from its grimy film-grain right down to over-the-top grindhouse feel.
I've been seeing a lot of Hilgenbrinck lately (Amusement, Lost Boys: The Tribe) and he makes for a steady protagonist here. Wyndham gives the film some okay comic relief, Montgomery gets to scream a lot, and Monk gets to be naked, act all "bad-ass", and get splattered with blood. But the movie belongs to Sadler in the role of our twisted director. He seems to be enjoying going over-the-top and makes the most of his limited screen time. I should also mention Raicho Vasilev as Babyface simply because he brought a menacing presence to the screen every time our masked maniac was on it.
Compared to most of the low-budget flicks (and unnecessary sequels) debuting on DVD from major studios like Warner, The Hills Run Red isn't a bad little time. It delivers enough bloody mayhem and twists to keep your interest doing a good enough job to distract you from the fact Schow's script tries to be a little bit too smart for its own good when attempting to deliver its "taking your art one step too far" message in the finale. (Chris Hartley, 10/3/09)
Directed By: Dave Parker.
Written By: David J. Schow.
Starring: Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrinck, Janet Montgomery, Alex Wyndham.
Warner - September 29, 2009
Picture Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen.
Picture Quality: The transfer here is above average with decent clarity and a clean print showing no dirt. Things can get mildly grainy in darker scenes but it's never distracting. Overall, a solid looking disc.
Extras: While there's not tons of special features here what is included manages to be pretty enjoyable as we get a 28 minute making of featurette entitled, "It's Not Real Until You Shoot It" that covers quite a bit of the film's production in Bulgaria and some of its history. There's also a commentary track from director Parker, writer Schow, and co-producer Robert Meyer Burnett that gives us more information on the making of the film without being over-congratulatory like a good portion of these tracks tend to be (which is a reason I skip a lot of them).
Visit the Official Movie Website for more info.