It’s incredibly hard to open this review without sounding like I’m throwing a string of backhanded compliments, but with the exception of Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, Hatchet and the forthcoming release of The House of the Devil there really aren’t any good studio-made direct-to-disc releases. Adding to the fact that Dave Parker’s The Hills Run Red is lumped into the world of crappy half-assed home video releases, it was produced by Dark Castle, who is responsible for all sorts of garbage ranging from Return to House on Haunted Hill to Ghost Ship. The true test of a director’s talent is his ability to break through studio barriers (and their dumbass “how to sell more” thinking) and work through a shoestring budget to somehow bring viewers a quality experience that they won’t soon forget. Dave Parker did what so many others have failed at with his forthcoming The Hills Run Red, a love letter to horror fans filled with laughs, scares and plenty of gore.
The story centers on a film fanatic named Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) whose obsession with finding a complete print of an infamous slasher movie (The Hills Run Red) leads him and two friends into the backwoods where the film was shot. They realize too late that filming never ended — and now they must survive a nightmarish onslaught or become part of the movie forever.
The Hills Run Red is a film you have to stick with, so don’t expect to immediately fall in love. While the pacing isn’t really an issue, it’s more that the screenplay is building for one major payoff. And while we’re going along for the trip, Schow, Dombrow and Parker load the movie with hilarious self-references that help balance the laugh-kill ratio evenly. They take into account that these teens are hardcore horror fans, therefore they might be a little bit more prepared for a “backwoods situation” – and yet, many of these hilarious plot points are used to further the story (so they’re not just there to make us laugh).
After the first 45 minutes or so you might find yourself wondering what the big stink is about Hills Run Red. Up to that point it’s a pretty generic film that carries a few laughs, kills, plenty of nudity (thank you Sophie Monk) and even a faux grindhouse trailer for Hills. Those of you who stick with it will be rewarded with a shockingly bold third act and everything about the movie is kicked up a notch. Not only does the tone and cinematography become increasingly dark (and oddly more cinematic), but also we are introduced to William Sandler’s character (the director of The Hills Run Red) who takes the film up a notch and adds an incredible sense of legitimacy to the pic.
While Sandler steals the show (hands down), Sophie Monk put on a surprising performance. Typically when an actress goes full on nude (so, so awesome) for 2/3 of a low-budget film, it’s nearly impossible to take her seriously, yet somehow she pulled it off. One of the main issues with the film was the (mis)casting of Tad Hilgenbrink. While he’s not a horrendous actor, he just doesn’t fit the role of uber-horror nerd; and his boyish good looks are far too distracting (it’s a lot easier to swallow later in the film when he’s dirty and covered in blood).
And speaking of The Hills Run Red, the film inside the film was bloodier than the actual movie, which was slightly annoying – it felt as if it could have used one more solid kill in the actual events taking place. Beyond that there are a few jump out of your seat moments, especially when one character is ripped apart limb from limb (and we get to see it twice!).
The Hills Run Red gives you that cinematic sexual experience as it doesn’t blow its load too early and keeps you stringing along for one hell of a climax. Dave Parker has delivered a really solid horror film that many horror fans will be pleasantly surprised with. In a day and age where nearly every single DVD on the shelf is pure crap, it’s nice to find a quality film that you’re not embarrassed to share with your friends.