Review 48: The Hills Run Red (.5/5)

The Hills Run Red

Directed by Dave Parker

Starring Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrink, Janet Montgomery, Alex Wyndham, Raicho Vasilev, William Sadler

Released on June 12, 2009

Running time 1h 21m

Rated R

Genre: Horror

Syngeror of IMDb could not have summed up The Hills Run Red more perfectly than in four words: “Horrible mess with tits”. This four word review effectively captures the essence of this tasteless train wreck of a movie better than the sycophantic rantings and ravings of a rabid fanboy of the genre of “attempts at ‘meta-horror’”, aka “self-aware horror”.

What are “attempts at ‘meta-horror’”, you may ask?

Well, all you need to do is take a look at films like Bride and Seed of Chucky, Urban Legend, The Human Centipede 2 and 3, My Name is Bruce, Night of the Comet, Rubber, Anguish, and There’s Nothing Out There, and you’ll have a pretty good idea. However, there are films that execute the idea of “meta-horror” surprisingly well: Funny Games and its American remake, New Nightmare, Fright Night, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, ZombielandShaun of the Dead, and, of course, Scream.

And no, I didn’t like Cabin in the Woods very much. It was more concerned with feeding us tired tropes and making us laugh than actually telling a decent story, scaring us, or giving us a satisfying body count. And, of course, there’s that nihilistic ending.

Dark Castle Entertainment has been responsible for three of the worst remakes of classic horror films: House on Haunted Hill, House of Wax, and 13 Ghosts. Oh, sorry. It’s Thir13en Ghosts. And yes, the House of Wax that decided to cast Paris Hilton. DCE has also been responsible for such failures as Ghost Ship, Gothika, The Reaping, Return to House on Haunted Hill (grammar lessons needed), Whiteout, Ninja Assassin, The Factory, and, most recently, Getaway. Far, far away. Oh, I forgot to include 2012’s abomination The Apparition. I knew reviewing that would come back to bite me in the ass. To date, the only critically lauded film released under the Dark Castle banner was 2010’s Splice.

And then we come to today’s review of Dark Castle’s The Hills Run Red.

Our story begins with the idea of a film within a film. “The Hills Run Red” was released in 1982 by director Wilson Wyler Concannon (a tribute to William Wyler, director of Ben-Hur?). It is considered to be the scariest movie of all time, as it featured graphic depictions of sadism, which caused it to be pulled from theaters. All reels of the film vanished or were destroyed. No cast member, or the director, was ever found. All that remains are a few stills and a cheap-looking, 80s-style trailer.

Wait a sec. Graphic depictions of sadism? They did that in Hellraiser! They did that in the original TCSM! You could say that they did that in Blue Velvet and the original Night of the Living Dead! They clearly did that in practically every film on anyone’s list of Most Disturbing Movies! But I can still find every one of these movies on the Internet. Good job, America. Good job.

I know we have our First Amendment right of free speech. And because of that right, we have to put up with crap like Fifty Shades of Grey, The Communist Manifesto, The Anarchist Cookbook, and various alleged snuff films. Frankly, I’m fine with that. If I don’t want to see such stuff, I will stay away from it.

But back to the movie. The opening credits of our film features a surprisingly graphic depiction of a boy cutting off his face with a pair of big, sharp scissors. The major problem with this scene can be applied to the rest of the violence throughout the film – its violence in general. The film does not know what to show onscreen and what to keep offscreen. Throughout the movie, we see plenty of brutal killings, but while some of the most gruesome facets of each kill are onscreen and shown in graphic detail, some other less gruesome facets of each kill are kept offscreen. Why? But one thing remains constant with each killing: its incredibly shoddy gore effects. Most of the time, the gore effects reach TCSM 2003 levels of bad, but sometimes the gore effects are nearing Violent Sh*t levels of facepalm-worthily, atrociously cheap. Hey, at least the gore isn’t pink like in Violent Sh*t. The gore – I’m sorry, have I been saying “gore”? I mean blood. Not gore. Horror junkies like me will understand. The blood flies too fast and too loose, and combining that with amateur rather than slick camerawork exposes the cheapness come the first kill. The amateur cinematography makes the effortless blood effects borderline comedic. And the blood is way too bright red to be anything but stage blood or red food coloring. Sigh. Even the Evil Dead trilogy had better blood effects. And those were meant to be funny.

We are introduced to our main character Tyler (Hilgenbrink), his girlfriend Serina (Montgomery), and his friend Lalo (Wyndham). Tyler is obsessed with finding “The Hills Run Red” by any means. Yes. He is easily old enough to be in college, and he is spending nearly every waking moment trying to find Concannon and his film. Talk about being obsessed.

In one scene, Tyler and Lalo go to a movie theater, buy some popcorn, and are implied to be walking toward one of the theaters. In the background, we see a glimpse of the 2002 horror failure Feardotcom. Are Tyler and Lalo seriously going to be watching that? And then the scene cuts off abruptly.

Well, that was pointless.

All right, fine, I’ll review Feardotcom.

Anyway, Tyler learns that Concannon’s daughter Alexa (Monk) works at a strip club. He meets her there and she gives him a topless lap dance. While she is sexy, I would love to know what the point of that was. Also, is it just me, or does this scene sound like a poor excuse to get some boobs onscreen as well as film inside a $20 strip club? Are our director and screenwriters closet perverts? Anyway, while Alexa does her thing, Serina cheats on Tyler with Lalo, giving us another poor excuse for boobs. Oh, and they do the deed after giving the audience a few-second-long cameo of House on Haunted Hill. As if they needed to remind us that Dark Castle made a terrible remake. Tyler goes back with Alexa to her hotel room, where he learns that she is a heroin addict and a serious slut. Over the next few days, he satisfies her sexual needs while helping her overcome her heroin addiction. Well, I hate all four of our characters already. Two of them are horny, one is a stripper and serious junkie, and the other is gullible. Well.

Tyler, Alexa, Serina, and Lalo travel to…some unnamed forest. They interview a few rednecks, hike several miles into the woods, and pitch their tents next to an abandoned campsite. The group talks about “THRR”, and Alexa gives the rest of the group, as well as the audience, backstory on the “THRR” antagonist Babyface (Vasilev). And the story Alexa tells is significantly different than the opening scene with the kid cutting off his own face. The backstory is entirely forgettable as it rips off other better backstories, but the one thing I remember is this one detail. Not because it’s disturbing, but because, as I just said, it directly contradicts the opening scene. Apparently Babyface’s father cut off his face. Right. And then the group goes to sleep.

Aaaaaand then the aforementioned rednecks attack them and prepare to rape Alexa and Serina. Aaaaaaaaaaand then, somehow, Babyface all of a sudden shows up and kills the rednecks. Babyface then chases the foursome through the woods. Strange. The original TCSM executed the intense chase sequence so much better. Alexa disappears, and Tyler gets separated from Serina and Lalo.

The three eventually come across some surprisingly well-maintained house in the middle of the woods. Tyler goes inside and finds a red-lit room with film strips hanging from the ceiling. Okay. And then he finds and releases Alexa, who was tied to a bed wearing only a pair of ridiculously skimpy panties, and with a ball gag in her mouth. Okay. That’s odd. So Babyface is a sexual torturer now? Strange – that was never mentioned before. Babyface was only ever the poor man’s Jason Voorhees. And considering the idiotic plot twist coming up later, this idea is an idiot’s rerun of Norman Bates’s issues that easily makes Gus van Sant look like Stanley Kubrick. Yes.

Alexa and Tyler leave the house, but Babyface shows up and knocks Tyler out at about the same time as Serina shows up sans Lalo. In an earlier scene, Babyface shot Lalo, going against the rules of the slasher movie: the killer NEVER uses guns or bombs. ONLY handheld melee weapons are allowed. A single crossbow kill by Jason Voorhees is the only exception. Anyway, after Tyler is knocked out, Serina runs away, and Babyface pins Alexa to the wall. And then … PLOT TWIST! … Alexa tells Babyface “Fetch,” which means “go get her”. So Alexa is EEEEEEEEEEEVIL now? No. It’s not this twist that spits on Psycho.

Babyface chases Serina. She hides in a smoke house filled with corpses. After Babyface gives up the chase (I would cry “rule broken”, but in a moment, you’ll understand why this is not the case.), Serina exits the smoke house. And then Babyface jumps down at her from the roof. How’d he get up there?

So, as the move has been playing, I presume you’ve picked up the twist. Though it was shot in 1982, “THRR” is still being filmed. And the reason that the film was banned was because the murders were real. Sigh. I expected better. Wait – this is Dark Castle. Of course they can’t execute a decent plot twist. No, this also isn’t the Psycho-shaming twist.

Tyler wakes up tied to a wheelchair. The room he is in is filled with film reels, all labeled “The Hills Run Red”. And then Wilson Wyler Concannon (Sadler) walks in and tells him his secret about the film. The twist we’ve already discovered. The murders are real. But then the Psycho-shaming twist rears its ugly head: Babyface is the child of father-daughter incest between Concannon and Alexa. And considering the previous scene in which Alexa was tied almost naked to the bed, this means that Babyface is sexually attracted to his mother. Norman Bates would be ashamed.

The next scene shows Alexa torturing Lalo as Babyface is implied to be raping Serina. Concannon and Tyler enter into the barn where the torture is happening, and Concannon and Alexa argue because Alexa wants to be a director as well. Alexa kills Lalo, Concannon shoots her, and Babyface attacks and kills Concannon. Babyface turns on Tyler, but Serina stabs him with an iron pole, apparently killing him. Aaaaaaaaand then Alexa, still alive, knocks the two of them out.

Tyler awakens in a makeshift movie theater. The corpses of all those who have died in the filming of “THHR” sit in the audience. Alexa gives Tyler the opportunity to reward his obsession – to watch the entirety of the film, uncut. Tyler is left to watch the film alone, and as he watches, he goes bonkers as he bursts out into maniacal laughter. I couldn’t help but laugh, as he looks like a guy who’s trying to win the challenge of laughing without smiling.

And then we cut to less than five seconds of credits before we get a mid-credits scene. Alexa checks on a now-very-pregnant Serina, who is presumable pregnant with Babyface’s child. Alexa shows that she plans to give Babyface’s mask to the baby, and she sings a lullaby as Serina screams.

Finally, the movie ends, dragging itself across the finish line, credits and all, at a measly hour and twenty-one minutes. What a sick sense of foreshadowing, as The Apparition would do the exact same thing three years later.

To be released in theaters, a film has to be at least an hour and twenty-five minutes long. That’s why Darkness Falls, The Apparition, and The Hills Run Red were released direct-to-DVD. Thank heaven.

With a lackluster story, unlikeable characters, a shoddy script, amateur cinematography, and terrible gore – sorry, blood – effects, The Hills Run Red falls flat.

The final nail in the coffin is that THRR ultimately tried and failed to bring two decent ideas together: generic slasher and meta-horror. And it attempted to bring them together in such a juvenile, immature, perverted way.

Scream this ain’t. Instead, it truly was a “Horrible mess with tits”.

Thanks for the help, Syngeror.

Final Verdict: .5 out of 5 stars.

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