I saw “Red Hill” at Frightfest – a horror movie festival. “Red Hill” is not a horror movie. This annoyed me at first. Turns out I shouldn’t have jumped the gun because “Red Hill” ended up being my favourite film of the entire festival.
I suppose it was included because it contains horror elements – revenge, a creepy villain, gore, boomerangs etc – but it’s most definitely not a horror film. Still, I just needed to get that out of my pants. Onto the review.
“Red Hill” concerns a police officer (Ryan Kwanten from “True Blood”) who switches locales from the city to a sleepy village in the middle of nowhere, because you know, he’s stressed out and wants a bit of a break.
NO FUCKING DICE, BRO.
Brown stuff hits the fan big time. Just as he’s settling into his new, laid-back, no-crazed-murderer-trying-to-kill-everybody role, a crazed murderer escapes from jail and starts trying to kill everybody. Needless to say, he’s a bit peeved at this, what with the whole running about and getting shot at part. Anyway, once the nutcase has escaped, we’re treated to pretty much non-stop tension (arse cheeks will be aching after this one) as Ryan and the rest of the police force in the village are stalked and killed by the psycho who’s acting on no clear motive – OR IS HE?? Did you get that? I’ll do it again, but in bold: OR IS HE??
It’s a bit like an Australian “No Country For Old Men”, in that it’s a modern western (even though they travel around on horses) about a weird bugger with a big gun and silly haircut running about killing people. Only it’s less concerned with winning Oscars, and more concerned with pushing you off the edge of your seat by way of sequence after sequence of unbearably tense stalk, chase and action sequences. That’s what’s so great about “Red Hill” – it’s a thrill ride, pure and simple. There’s no boring exposition, no complex plot movements – just a bunch of well-rounded characters being stalked by a mysterious gun-nut.
As a villain, Jimmy Conway (we eventually find out his name) is a fearsome central antagonist that elevates the film to a whole new level. Complete with requisite facial scarring and a refusal to talk – he’s a full-on force of weapon-heavy trouser-browning fear. It helps that we’re constantly given hints to his backstory – obviously he’s the best gunman the town has ever seen, he’s done this, he’s done that, he single-handedly killed an entire pack of wolves with his dick, you know, that kind of stuff. Put it all together and he absolutely has to go down in the bad guy hall-of-fame.
The good guys also hold their corners, partly down to the great script, but also due to the fantastic performances. Ryan Kwanten is awesome throughout, crafting a character that is likeable, relatable and magnetic – perfect ingredients for a central character. Surrounding him are a diverse group of old-timers, grizzled and experienced in the ways of the world. Perhaps a little too experienced, a note which is hit upon subtly by each actor, thereby forcing a vaguely antagonistic vibe to engulf each supporting role – this creates extra intrigue and allows the twists and turns (when they come) to be all the more believable.
Then, in amongst all this talent is the major creative force that glues it all together – Patrick Hughes. This is his first feature film, but you wouldn’t know it, as it’s every bit as accomplished as any veteran filmmaker – as is the breakneck script, which is also his baby. He keeps it moving throughout, and once the nut-twisting surprise finale arrives, you’ll be so engrossed in everything that’s happening, you’ll be surprised when you see the credits and remember it’s a movie. Hughes is clearly a talented bloke, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the other boomerang-related antics he has lined up.
If there’s anything wrong with the film, it’s probably that there aren’t any bloody robots in it it’s that it’s a bit convenient at certain points – for example, we’re told numerous times how skillful Jimmy Conway is as a marksman, and that he never misses – only whenever he has to shoot at one of the characters integral to the plot, he’ll miss. Suddenly he can’t shoot for shit. Next minute he flings a boomerang around with deadly accuracy – which is also a bit far-fetched – seeing a bloke running at you with a boomerang isn’t normally something which would strike fear into your heart. Unless you’re on the toilet or something.
Still, it didn’t really bother me that much – “Red Hill” was way too good to let a super-powered boomerang ruin everything. I can’t recommend this film enough, and here’s hoping that it’s going to get the wide, theatrical release it clearly deserves – hopefully the star power of Ryan Kwanten (“True Blood” is massive at the moment) will help it out. Either way, it’s a powerful film, and it needs to be seen.
OH I FORGOT, THERE’S A PANTHER IN IT TOO. PANTHERS ARE COOL.
Patrick Hughes (director) / Patrick Hughes (screenplay)
CAST: Ryan Kwanten … Shane Cooper
Steve Bisley … Old Bill
Tommy Lewis … Jimmy Conway
Claire van der Boom … Alice Cooper
Christopher Davis … Slim
Kevin Harrington … Barlow
Richard Sutherland … Manning