The Hills Run Red (THRR) is a modestly-budgeted but effective gore fest about the search for a legendary 'lost' horror film of the same title, a movie that was supposedly so notorious and disturbing it was only screened once before disappearing from the face of the earth...as did it’s entire cast and iconic director Wilson Wyler Concannon.
Concannon (embodied to sinister perfection by William Sadler) had a peculiar but dedicated idea of how to bring realistic horror to the screen, and he apparently put everything he had into his one and only production about a sadistic and ghoulish-looking masked killer called 'Babyface'. The only surviving remnant of the film is a cleverly made trailer we see at the beginning of the movie, done in a style that recalls the wonderful fake genre trailers of Grindhouse.
The mystery of the missing movie consumes our hero, Tyler (well played by Tad Hilgenbrink), a film student and horror aficionado who dedicates his life to finding (and viewing) a surviving print of the feature. He decides to shoot a documentary of his quest, recruiting his best friend/cameraman Lalo and girlfriend/sound recordist Serena to come along.
Their only lead is the sole survivor of the THRR’s production, Concannon’s daughter Alexa (the delectable Sophie Monk), who is now living as a strung out stripper with a seemingly fragmented memory of daddy and his work. Tyler 'rescues her' from drugs and the strip club where she works, and in return, she agrees to lead him to her father's old house, somewhere deep in the woods in the middle of nowhere where the movie was shot.
At first, you might think the film is going down the path of The Blair Witch Project, with its pseudo-documentary plot engine, but thankfully, there’s really very little shaky-cam action. However, the fact that our main characters are documenting their adventure becomes more important to the plot than they know. Then the film seems headed for typical 'Friday the 13th/teenagers killed in the woods action'...but that’s not where it’s headed at all.
No, the one film I would most relate this to is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but not because of Babyface, although there is an undeniable parallel to a large brutish masked killer armed with sharp utensils; let’s just say it’s more about 'family values'.
And you will meet up with the truly terrifying Babyface; however like everything else in this movie, nothing is what it seems.
To reveal much more would deny the viewer the pleasure of watching the film unfold. Suffice to say, that knowledgeable genre fans will be rewarded with the many clever allusions to past horror films, and enjoy how writer David J. Schow and director Dave Parker subvert your expectations of them.
So I’ll stop here. Except to say that since THRR is a film that continually plays with the nature of filmmaking, make sure to stay with the movie through the credits, or miss a crucial coda to the plot.