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Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Home Movies | The Hills Run Red

By Steve Anderson
March1st , 2009

Home MovieHome Movie
****
DVD
Directed by Christopher Denham
Written by Christopher Denham
Starring Adrian Pasdar, Cady McClain, Amber Joy Williams, Austin Williams
Produced by William M. Miller, Andrew van den Houten
R
77 mins
2009

There is nothing, ladies and gentlemen, quite so scary as the concept of children gone bad.

Children, you see, awaken certain instincts in us. In most of the population, these are instincts of protection, instincts that in most cases requires us to defend the children in question.

The thought that we may have to defend ourselves FROM children...this is a thought too horrible to contemplate. The thought that you may have to KILL A CHILD...to prevent the child in question from killing YOU...is a dark and sinister truth not easily contemplated.

And in Home Movie, that's about what we're dealing with--Jack and Emily, the children of a Lutheran minister and his wife, seem to be a little out of sorts. And the videos that our minister will take of his children reveal what looks to be a slow descent into homicidal madness.

Did I mention that Jack and Emily's last name is...Poe?

The interesting part here is that this movie isn't exactly...familiar. Nothing like this has ever been, that I can think of, done before. It's unusual, and this unusual is what adds to the horror.

Though this isn't without its faults--apparently David's wife is a CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST. And she doesn't seem to actually notice that her kids almost never talk and exhibit behavior that can only be described as "creepy as all hell". Seriously, Jack and Emily Poe, even from their earliest moments, make the kids from Village of the Damned look like extras from the Barney set.

Oh, and it may well be a bad idea to teach these kids how to 1. pick locks and 2. tie knots of incredible tension.

If it were possible for people to deserve to die, then the elder Poes would qualify. It's a wonder that they didn't HAND their children knives, crack open a copy of Gray's Anatomy and draw a charcoal line along their carotid arteries.

And yet, at the same time this is a commentary on how creepy the overall picture is, because the kids are incredible actors who are playing these roles to the absolute HILT.

It's hard to settle on a strong feeling about Home Movie, because frankly, I'm horrified. I'm pretty scared. These children are horrendous nightmares packed into tiny little bodies. But at the same time, the elder Poes are thundering morons of such incredible intensity that it's hard to feel for them. I understand that you never want to believe children are capable of evil, but this is evil on a grandiose scale.

The ending will prove to be all the more terrifying for its seeming resolution--trust me, they're going to do some truly horrendous stuff through the last about half hour or so. It's downright terrifying.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, a making of featurette, and trailers for Left Bank, Fears of the Dark and Home Movie.

All in all, wow. This may well be one of the scariest movies I've seen in quite some time. It's also one of the most thoroughly unique horror films ever, without immediate parallel and only approximation to even try and compare it. It's not without its flaws, but these flaws are actually swallowed up by the vast gulf of sheer horror that we're looking at here.

The Hills Run RedThe Hills Run Red
***
DVD
Directed by Dave Parker
Written by John Carchietta, John Dombrow, David J. Schow
Starring Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrink, William Sadler, Janet Montgomery
Produced by John Carchietta, Jonathan Tzachor

Considering that the first five minutes of The Hills Run Red open up with some truly horrendous self-mutilation, I can see how you would think this would be pretty shocking. And giving me further hope for the movie is the surprise revelation that this is a Dark Castle film. Dark Castle has given me LOADS of jollies over the years, starting with House on Haunted Hill and going all the way to Orphan.

I'll let the movie itself describe half the plot:

"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."

Thus, the rest of the movie revolves around a collection of friends out to find Wilson Wyler, or the film, whichever comes first. They also discover that the film isn't so much a film as it is a documentary. With lots of murder. ACTUAL murder.

Of course, considering that the killer in question is a guy with a porcelain doll mask named Babyface made me cringe somewhat, especially considering Twisted Metal: Black did the EXACT SAME THING with its character, Dollface, like six years or so ago.

The interesting thing about The Hills Run Red will be the sheer amount of twists and surprises involved. Several have been built in at the script level (David J. Schow really can do a fantastic multi-twist script, as evidenced by his turn at Masters of Horror, and if someone ever does an adaptation of Jerry's Kids Meet Wormboy I think I'll likely have an embolism in sheer glee), and while some of these interesting twists are interesting for their own sake, some of them really don't come off the way they should. And that's okay--not everything works in the end. For the most part, what we actually get is pretty effective and worth watching.

Especially the ending.

The ending, meanwhile, seems abrupt--because it's not REALLY the ending. It'll surprise you very deeply. Let's put it this way; when you see the first set of credits, don't shut off the movie. You might have that particular knee-jerk reaction like I do to walk out (or shut down, whichever) when the movie starts telling you who did what. That would be a huge mistake here, even if the extra ending is a serious downer.

The special features are pretty sparse, featuring language tracks in English and for some reason Portuguese, as well as English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese subtitles, a commentary track and a making of featurette, along with trailers at the beginning that are inaccessible from the DVD menu itself.

All in all, I'm slightly disappointed, but only slightly. For the most part, The Hills Run Red manages to perform as advertised, doing its job pretty well with a few minor hiccups.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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