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The Hills Run Red (2009)

I remember owning this hidden gem on DVD upon its initial release in 2009 and constantly being on the search for anyone else who had also seen it. I would regularly ask like-minded horror fans if they had watched it and more than likely the response would be 'no, isn't that the straight to DVD horror that's just come out?' And yes it was, however it is by far the more superior of the straight to DVD horrors that are out there. This was a film that I watched more times than I can remember, one that I still enjoy and one that I still think holds up remarkable well today. One thing that came as a genuine surprise to me was how much I really liked the story and the concept of this film. Granted, some elements of it felt quite cliché - drawing a lot of inspiration from the self-aware meta aspects of Scream, the hillbilly aspects of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and certainly the hulking aspect of the killer from Friday the 13th. But, even ven with all of that in mind this still has enough originality to make it stand up on its own two feet. There are numerous sub-plots that serve a purpose and a few twist and turns along the way that provide enough depth for this to be more than your standard run-of-the-mill slasher in the woods. The antagonist 'Babyface', played by Raicho Valsilev (albeit slight unoriginal in name) is still a rather impressive as a slasher villain. His mask is incredibly haunting and there are more than a few moments in the film where it is used to create some rather creepy visuals, whether that be as he is coming forth from the darkness or just a single on screen jump scare shot of the mask. I like that he isn't reliant on one singular weapon as this provides a much larger scope for some creative kills. Along with a compelling back story that only becomes more expensive as the story progresses throughout, it makes this a horror villain that I believe warrants its own horror franchise. The effects work for the blood and gore is a bit of a mixed bag. When done practically, it looks really impressive and has clearly had time and effort spent on making it look the best it can be, with the budget limitations that this film suffers from. However, in the moments when it's not practical and the CGI takes center stage it looks glaringly obvious and harms a lot of the scenes in which it is used. In one of the flash back scenes featuring the girl strung up with hooks and barbed wire in the woods, the CGI looks very cheap and is borderline comical due to the low quality of the blood splatter effects. I would much rather have seen a cut away kill and then have the aftermath presented using practical effects. This film handles character development quite well, giving a rather unusual level of back story to our key characters for a film of this standard. The acting is nothing exceptional but serviceable, with some of the cast being much stronger than others. The lead 'Tyle' played by Tad Hilgenbrink being the strongest of the bunch. Although he does feel slightly miscast. As an actor he is creditable, but just didn't see to fit well for me as the character he was portraying. Other notable cast members include Sophie Monk as Alexa, providing great range with her character and the most recognisable face being William Salder as the elusive Concannon. Everyone else is rather forgettable and didn't bring anything worthy of a mention here. I have always found this to be a very under-appreciated and underrated slasher hybrid that I certainly think deserves more recognition. This is by no means perfect, but as far as straight to DVD releases go this for me is as perfect as it gets. With a mid credits scene perfectly setting up for a sequel, it's a shame this never went on to become more than just a forgotten relic in the genre. If you are yet to see this film, it comes highly recommended from me. Maybe bare in mind going in though that I do have a soft spot for low quality slashers.


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