Release Date(s)2009 (June 16, 2020)
Studio(s)Dark Castle Entertainment/Fever Dreams/Warner Premiere (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
[Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers.]
Produced by Dark Castle Entertainment (House on Haunted Hill, Thirteen Ghosts), co-written by David J. Schow (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, The Crow) and directed by Dave Parker (The Dead Hate the Living!, It Watches), The Hills Run Red came and went in the summer of 2009—premiering on video with only minimal fanfare. Utilizing various elements from horror films of the past, it goes straight for the throat, delivering a particularly mean and nasty slasher film experience that’s light on ingenuity but heavy on carnage.
A young man named Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) has an overt obsession with controversial filmmaker Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler) and his horror film output, much to the dismay of his girlfriend Serena (Janet Montgomery) and best friend Lalo (Alex Wyndham). Concannon disappeared years before, along with his unreleased horror film The Hills Run Red. After meeting Concannon’s daughter Alexa (Sophie Monk) and discovering his whereabouts, Tyler sets out with Alexa, Serena, and Lalo to unearth the lost film for themselves. Little do they know that the backwoods serial killer of Concannon’s films, known only as Babyface, is waiting for them.
As a premise, The Hills Run Red offers something that isn’t done all that often, which is that a horror filmmaker kills people for real to make his film. What’s especially intriguing is that during Tyler’s descent into Concannon’s world, you start to believe that he’s going to be taking part as one of Babyface’s victims in the next film. Unfortunately, that never happens. Instead, Alexa becomes more of the focal point, and she wants to make a horror film of her own. Because the former isn’t explored, the story peters out quickly and it becomes less about the idea that we’re witnessing a group of people unwittingly becoming victims for someone’s pleasure.
The main problem is that a throwback slasher for modern day audiences, even in 2009, has to be something more clever to stand out. The 70s and the 80s were a different time and the exploitation of horror meant that you could get away with heaping amounts of boobs and blood for the sake of it. The times have changed, and now something more is needed to keep the genre from going to stale. It’s part and parcel as to why almost nobody, other than low budget or first time filmmakers, make straight zombie movies or horror movies set in cabins anymore.
That all said, The Hills Run Red is still a slick-looking production, and with a mid-level Hollywood budget behind it, it’s not difficult to understand why. Deep-seated horror fans can appreciate the attention to the viscera, of which there is plenty once Tyler and his friends come knocking on Concannon’s door. Babyface is also an excellent-looking movie monster. He has more in common with Leatherface than he does Jason Voorhees, but his baby doll visage has certainly been replicated elsewhere. It’s also great to see William Sadler in such a sadistic role.
Scream Factory brings The Hills Run Red to Blu-ray for the first time utilizing what appears to be an older HD master of the film. Detail is more than adequate, giving depth to the early scenes in the strip club or the latter scenes in Concannon’s hideout. The color palette also offers variety, particularly the initial trek through the wooded backroads containing lush greens. Skin tones are natural as well. Blacks are not always deep as sometimes they’re a tad too bright, meaning that the contrast is a couple of degrees too high. Everything appears clean and stable otherwise.
The audio is provided in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 5.1 track has a surprising amount of panning and surround activity, especially in the woods at night when we’re surrounded by nightly forest activity. Dialogue exchanges are clear and the score gives the rear speakers plenty of boost. Sound effects are also effective. The stereo track is a fold-down, but a nice experience for those with headphones or limited speakers.
The following extras are also included, the bulk of which are new and all presented in HD:
- Audio Commentary with Dave Parker and Patrick Bromley
- Audio Commentary with Dave Parker, Joe Lynch, and Adam Green
- Audio Commentary with Dave Parker, Robert Meyer Burnett, and David J. Schow
- Musical Terror with Frederik Wiedmann (18:54)
- Running to the Hills with Erik Olsen (22:47)
- Deep in the Red with David J. Schow and Dave Parker (29:54)
- Friday the 13th, June 2008 with Director Dave Parker (16:25)
- The Hills Are Alive… With the Sound of Improv (15:49)
- William Sadler as Wilson Wyler Concannon (18:53)
- Janet Montgomery as Serina (12:05)
- Sophie Monk as Alexa Concanno (11:09)
- Alex Wyndham as Lalo (8:28)
- Tad Hilgenbrink as Tyler (14:12)
- Robert Meyer Burnett: Producer (13:21)
- Antonello Rubino: Production Designer (11:46)
- The Hills Run Red: Production Scrapbook (11:09)
- It's Not Real Until You Shoot It: Making The Hills Run Red (28:18)
- Original Animatic for the Proof of Concept Trailer (2:34)
- Proof of Concept Trailer (2:31)
- Trailer (1:24)
Almost all of the interviews are sourced from footage shot during the making of the film, giving a first-hand look at the making of it while in progress. There’s also a couple of modern interviews and audio commentaries, giving plenty of perspective on the experience. All of the audio commentaries are also informative and lively, particularly with Joe Lynch and Adam Green’s involvement. Also included is a vintage thirty-minute making of, as well as videos devoted to the original idea for the trailer and the final trailer itself. This material is absolutely exhaustive and covers a massive amount of ground, so be prepared to set aside a few hours for it.
The Hills Run Red doesn’t offer anything new, but it does offer an experience similar to films of the past, such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Hostel. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of the film boasts a fine transfer and an amazing set of bonus materials.
– Tim Salmons