At the end of the 2000’s, the ‘torture porn’ sub-genre was almost out of steam. Paranormal Activity had supplanted the Saw franchise as the new ‘king of the Halloween’ movie season. After a handful of high-profile box office failures (e.g., Captivity, I Know Know Who Killed Me), the writing was on the wall. Dark Castle Entertainment, possibly sensing the change in box office fortunes, dumped The Hills Run Red directly to video. It did get a blink-and-you’ll miss it screening. Otherwise this hillbilly horror redux was left to its own devices to find an audience.
Aspiring filmmaker Tyler is obsessed with obscure horror film, The Hills Run Red. The movie was only screened once for audiences before being pulled due to its excessive violence. Its star, Babyface, was even believed to be a real serial killer. In the years following its release, the director, William Wyler Concannon, has disappeared. Intent on finding the only existing copy, Tyler, along with his girlfriend and best friend, tracks down Concannon’s daughter. Dragged out into the woods searching for the lost reels, Tyler discovers something far more horrifying than a lost movie.
The Hills Run Red Is Never As Clever As It Wants to Be
Three different writers share credit for The Hills Run Red. Clearly, they intended to hit the same ‘meta’ tone as movies like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. For starters, you have the ‘movie-within-a-movie’ conceit that abounds throughout The Hills Run Red. Characters also make references to standard horror movie tropes on several occasions. None of this makes The Hills Run Red remotely as hip or smart as it wants to be. A distinct sense of familiarity hangs over the entirety of the movie.
But The Hills Run Red never escapes feeling rote.
Much of the problem lies with the execution of these ideas. Director Dave Parker doesn’t do much interesting with the concept. The ‘movie-within-a-movie’ amounts to little more than a series of dully repetitive and gory vignettes. Parker isn’t able to inject any of these clips with the mystery or grimness fitting of their reputation. Expository dialogue tells us The Hills Run Red is terrifying. But you won’t find anything like the ‘cursed’ video in The Ring. There’s just a general feeling of potential being left on the table. That is, the idea of a ‘snuff film’, while not original, should still produce some uneasiness. But The Hills Run Red never escapes feeling rote.
Enough Bloodshed to Satisfy, But Not Much Elese
It’s not hard to tell that The Hills Run Red came out past ‘torture porn’s’ expiration date. Most of the hallmarks of the sub-genre are present. Not surprisingly then, the DNA of far better horror movies – The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – are all over this movie. To a large extent, Parker successfully delivers enough bloodshed and gore to satisfy horror fans. At a trim 81 minutes, The Hills Run Red never overstays its welcome and is far from boring. Nevertheless. Parker clearly lacks vision as none of the death scenes will register as memorable. Stuff happens, you’ll pay attention, and then you’ll move on.
Instead, The Hills Run Red seems content to cobble their killer together from bits and pieces from other franchise slashers.
This lack of inventiveness is no more keenly felt than with the movie’s killer and his origin. ‘Babyface’ has a memorably menacing look, which is critical for any slasher movie villain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though much more thought was put into the killer. Instead, The Hills Run Red seems content to cobble their killer together from bits and pieces from other franchise slashers. The writers most obviously owe a debt to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. An incest angle introduced near the end feels more sleazy than shocking.
Competent Performances In a Generally Unmemorable Movie
No one is watching The Hills Run Red for Oscar-worthy acting performances. All anyone can really ask is that the actors don’t make you cringe with their line delivery. In this regard, The Hills Run Red is cast with competent performers who never threaten to drag the movie into unwatchable terrible territory. Former Aussie pop singer Sophie Monk manages to distinguish herself from the rest of the cast. But there is nothing about her performance that you’ll remember after the movie is over. Veteran character actor William Sadler is wasted in a small role. Poor Sadler is forced to spout some pretty nonsensical dialogue. It’s not so much an underwritten role as it’s just crafted on some pretty convoluted logic.
The Hill Run Red Never Amounts to More than an Adequate Time-Waster
To be fair, I didn’t hate The Hills Run Red while I watched it. It kept my attention and delivered just enough in the way of blood and guts to make it worth its 81 minutes. Yet nothing about this movie would demand re-watching it in the future. The Hills Run Red doesn’t amount to much more than an adequate time-waster if there’s nothing better available.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C