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DVD Review: The Hills Run Red (2009)

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Relax, it’s not a rip-off sequel to the rip-off remake (or sequel) of The Hills Have Eyes. Nor is it any relation to the spaghetti western of the same name. And, surprisingly enough, Dave Parker’s The Hills Run Red isn’t just your average brain-dead direct-to-video splatterfest aimed at the teens — it actually has some meat on its bones.

The tongue-in-cheek story tells of a young film buff’s obsession with a lost 1982 horror film, The Hills Run Red. On the outside, it looked like just another dumb slice-n-dice drive-in flick, only this time, the masked killer was named Babyface. The movie was soon banned however, due to its unsettlingly gruesome nature (think Gigli, but only bloodier), the controversial slasher film was quickly withdrawn from moviehouses and all prints were ordered destroyed.

But that’s not enough Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink). He’s determined to make his own documentary about the now-legendary film. It isn’t an easy task, though. All that currently exists of the film are some movie memorabilia and a trailer. The original cast members were never seen again, and the film’s director, one Wilson Wyler Colcannon (played by the great William Sadler, who was probably on set for only a few days), went into hiding.

Loading his Jeep up with his trusty film equipment and his pal Lalo (Alex Wyndham) and girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery), Tyler sets off to discover the original shooting locations of the film. His only guide throughout it all is a junkie stripper named Alexa (Sophie Monk) — who not only happens to be the only known cast member of the film, but also happens to be Concannon’s daughter. Setting out into the wooded wilderness, our four heroes soon find themselves at odds a menacing, masked killer known as Babyface.

Hey, what do you know: life does imitates art! And this homage to the classic slasher films of yesteryear may scream “imitation” to some, but it is really the most sincerest form of flattery: while it looks like it’s going to be another B-grade shot-in-Bulgaria horror film at times (which it is), The Hills Run Red actually goes on to surprises its viewers (despite a number of inconsistencies) with its humor — not to mention its unconditional love for older horror titles.

Many scenes border on being the mind-numbing and pointless torture-porn the kids seem to go nuts for nowadays. Normally, this is enough to make me roll my eyes and contemplate hitting the “fast-forward” button. But then, The Hills Run Red throws you for a loop by having the onscreen characters arguing between the “subtextual shit” contained in the more “classy” slasher films of the ‘80s, and the aforementioned hardcore horror films of today — while a murder is being committed. And, for that alone, I enjoyed The Hills Run Red.

The Hills Run Red hits DVD via its co-financers Warner Home Video in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio. The video presentation is decent for the most part, and there is a lot of grain present in some scenes — most likely due to the movie’s low-budget (but possibly deliberate considering the subject matter). The main audio option here is a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, which carries more through the front speakers than the rear ones (again, that could be deliberate — but I would venture to guess it isn’t). Also on hand is a Portuguese 5.1 track (wait, no Spanish or French? ‘Tis unusual…), with subtitles available in English SDH, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Portuguese.

Special features for The Hills Run Red are limited and include a twenty-eight-minute making-of featurette and an audio commentary with director Dave Parker, writer David J. Schow, and producer Robert Meyer Burnett (Free Enterprise). A few (non-anamorphic) trailers for other Warner/New Line titles adorn the beginning of this disc, such as the upcoming Trick-R-Treat and a promo for Freddy Vs. Jason on Blu-ray.

It’s a budget DVD, released just in time for October, carrying a conspicuous cover and fairly unoriginal name. But it’s also the best splatter film to grace your television screens in the last couple of years. See it.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.