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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 08.28.09] movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Dave Parker
Writers: John Carchietta & John Dombrow
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 4 out of 10

Promised a film that takes a fictional banned 1982 horror movie so nasty and so horrible that all reels have been destroyed, and a teenager's quest to get to the bottom of the story, I was excited. Such a disappointment then that the great premise is used to make a sub-par run-of-the-mill teen slasher.

The lost mystery of early 1980s horror is a pull for any British horror fan, as due to the 1984 Video Recordings Act (the infamous “Video Nasty” list) many great horror films readily available to the Americans and Italians who made them were banned in the UK until quite recently. Consequently they took on an unholy mystery, became strange and dangerous artefacts half-whispered about, films of awesome power that could corrupt and derange if they were seen. The forbidden fruit of the banned film has permeated through British culture, and English horror writer Ramsey Campbell has touched on the subject in his novel “The Grin of the Dark”, where a film student researches an obscure silent film comedian whose deranged humour invokes madness in all who watch him.

The Hills Run Red begins with the same set up, as a film student pores over the surviving parts of a lost horror movie, and ropes his friends into helping him make a documentary about his quest to uncover its story. They travel together into the forested backwoods where the film was made, seeking out its locations and bit-part actors, collecting the director's daughter on the way. The first signs that this isn't going to be the film you hope it is start here, as references to horror cliches like: why do horror film teenagers go in the woods alone? Why do vulnerable characters never carry a gun? and so on are spouted; these are of course cliches themselves now after films like Scream, and reveal a woeful lack of originality and humour on the part of the director. This is a serious drawback in a film that posits itself as fun horror movie.

Once in the woods our teenage heroes come face-to-face with the monster of the film, a run-of-the-mill character with a baby mask on, and we descend into straight woodland teenage slasher territory. Killings ensue, but somehow the gore doesn't gel, sitting halfway between being unrealistic and not stupid enough. The action eventually enters a knowing, winking commentary on the geeky world of horror film purists, but this is two-thirds of the way through the film; too late, not good enough, and not particularly original in the first place.

The Hills Run Red never knows what it wants to be. There isn't enough humour, and what jokes there are are dated and fall flat. Whilst trying to be over-the-top the gore is strangely restrained. The film buff irony could have worked if it infused the whole film, but fifteen minutes of it near the end just feels tacked on. Every now and again it gets nasty, but a hinted at rape is seriously misplaced and a bit weird. There isn't really much going for this film. On paper it sounds great, but to be honest it's a pretty bad job.

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geilerbass (12 years ago) Reply

Great review for a hugely disappointing film. I saw this at the Frightfest last night and was expecting something a bit more original, or at least with a bit more intelligence. The idea of the 'lost' horror film is such an intriguing and mysterious concept, that it's a crying shame that this film ignored the potential in creating something genuinely tense and captivating by exploring the subject matter in a slower and more subtle fashion.

Great idea, hopelessly lost in an attempt to press too many shock buttons at the same time.


Superheidi (12 years ago) Reply

You have no idea how relieved i am that someone agrees with me on this. Everyone in Los Angeles is friends with the director and says they think its the best movie in the universe.

The 'shocking' film they actually show is fairly tame and lame as well. I was hoping parker would use this opportunity to show us the most extreme horror film EVER in those sequences.


Ben Austwick (12 years ago) Reply

Glad you both agree, I had such high hopes as well...

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