“In 1982 controversial film director Wilson Wyler Concannon released his only film, The Hills Run Red. Because of its graphic depiction of sadism and murder the film was quickly pulled from theaters. All known prints vanished and no cast member was ever found. Over the years film historians attempted to find the film, but all that remained was a crudely made trailer. Director Wilson Wyler Concannon was never heard from again.”
Believe it or not, The Hills Run Red was a project saved at one point by the Man Of Steel himself, Superman. Okay, it’s not like the famous Kryptonian hero actually swooped in and rescued anyone on the project, but he does deserve some credit for the film’s ultimate release.
The film was originally the brainchild of Robert Burnett and Dave Parker. Even though an original script was written by John Dombrow and John Carchietta, it was the first duo that were approached by Fever Dreams to put together a very small budget film for their horror series. They brought in David Schow to rewrite the film, and it was all headed to become a very limited release with Fever Dreams. But the team is most known for their documentary work. They are the guys that produce those DVD extra things you often see on your discs. The group had just wrapped up working for Bryan Singer on the Superman Returns DVD features when Singer expressed an interest in what they were currently up to. The pair showed him the teaser they had worked up for the film, and Singer was impressed. He advised them that they had something a little bigger than a Fever Dreams project and made a few calls hooking them up with his contacts at Warner. That meant a little more money and a wider distribution for the film. In just a few weeks they were in Bulgaria shooting their film. The rest is on this DVD.
“Where night falls, the terror begins. They thought it was just a legend. They thought the woods were safe. Their only warning was the death rattle. From the master of horror, Wilson Wyler Concannon, witness the birth of a madman. (cue screams) His name is Baby Face. His game is death. When night falls The Hills Run Red. If you hear his rattle, it’s already too late.”
Tyler (Hilgenbrink) is a wannabe horror film maker and a bit of an historian on the subject. His obsession is the lost film The Hills Run Red. He’s learned everything there is to know about the movie, at least what’s out there to find. He thinks now that he’s on the trail of the film when he discovers the only known cast member and the director’s daughter, Alexa (Monk) working at a strip joint doing lap dances. She’s a junkie, and he cleans her up so that she might lead him to the forgotten film. When she agrees, he brings together his friends Lalo (Wyndham) and Serena (Montgomery) to shoot a documentary of his search and hoped for discovery of the elusive movie. Along the way they encounter the film’s masked killer, Baby Face (Vasilev). Tyler gets what he wants, but it’s one of those be careful what you wish for things. He might just get to star in the lost movie’s sequel.
“True cinema is recursive. It falls back on itself. See, you gotta suck the audience in. You gotta make them a part of the drama. You’ve gotta make them believe what they’re seeing. You’ve gotta dream for them because they can’t. And, you gotta create the nightmare, too. You see, otherwise it’s just a picture show, isn’t it? It’s not real. Reality is what scares people.”
And I’ve seen enough episodes of Survivor to know how scary reality can be. This is one of those movies that follows a lot of paths. It’s certainly more violent and gory than most. It takes on a kind of Blair Witch Project idea of going out into the remote wilderness in search of a legend. It turns into more of The Last Broadcast after making pit stops in Deliverance and even Showgirls territory before settling in to what it really was from the beginning: A masked slasher film with a few tight twists. David Schow has done more than a couple film documentaries and it shows in his script. He sees himself in Tyler, I’m sure of it. Tyler lets loose with way too much stilted exposition. Before long he’s delivering lectures on this director and his missing film that really do slow down the film. I’ve met David on the convention circuit, and that is how he speaks. He’s sort of the Al Gore of the horror scene. He likes to show off what he knows, just like Tyler does here. Fortunately, what the film lacks in dialog it more than makes up for in pacing and scares. There are some sweet moments here, and even if they carry the twist over twist idea a bit too far, it works, and I found the climax to be most satisfying.
The film pretends to be original, but it’s not. A lot was made of the Baby Face look, but he’s really just a hybrid of Jason and Leatherface. Again, it’s not a knock. The movie is rather enjoyable in its own right. It never had to be as original as they might have intended. It works very well for what it is if you can get past some really horrible acting by the leads. Sophie Monk is the only one among the teens who has any chops. William Sadler appears as the token bigger ticket actor, and he’s fine but uninspired here. Baby Face is quite cool and makes it all worth it in the end.
The Hills Run Red is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Another dark film that depends a lot on the black levels. They work just fine. There is some compression artifact, but not enough to spoil it for me. Colors are a little unnatural. When the film is well lit the lights look far too artificial for me. I don’t quite know if it was intended or just bad lights. Red is a prominent color here, as I’m sure you can imagine. The image does the crimson carnage justice, indeed.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track works well in this dialog driven piece. There are some fine examples of ambient sounds here, but most of the action is front and center. The score is appropriately subtle and low key. While there is nothing exciting at all about this presentation; it fits the mood of the film perfectly.
Another useless eco-case.
It’s Not Real Until You Shoot It – The Making Of The Hills Run Red: (28:14) Sometimes they really go overboard on these feature titles. Are you really more likely to buy or enjoy this feature than if it were simply entitled: The Making Of…? You get a chance to visit the Bulgarian sets and meet some of the local crew. There’s a ton of shooting footage here, so you’ll see behind quite a few scenes here. Cast and crew talk up a storm, so there’s a lot of insight. Finally, get up close and personal with Baby Face himself. The actor who plays Tyler talks about the acting style paint by numbers. It explains a lot.
Schow has always been over the top pretentious, and it really ruins a lot of this script for me. I would have liked to have seen the original draft in action. Still, I had enough fun to recommend this one for inclusion on your Halloween viewing list. It’ll be a blast with a few friends. The team here obviously had a lot of fun making this one, and that counts for a lot as well. You know they didn’t do it for the bucks. “Everyone knows the real money is in porn.”