DECEMBER 16, 2011
At first I thought Hillside Cannibals might end up being the rare Asylum mockbuster that actually turned out pretty decent (all things considered), with the admirable slaughter of most of the cast in the first 15 minutes and some decent FX to boot. I find that their "originals" tend to be of better quality than their mockbusters, but even though this was clearly a cash-in on the Hills Have Eyes remake, this first reel displayed some semblance of a real horror movie.
Sadly, it all collapsed after that, and is ultimately just as bad as their other copycat films. Worse, it's what I originally liked that proved to be its biggest problem: they kill most of the teens right off the bat, and then spend the rest of the movie either going in circles or introducing new characters out of nowhere that are killed just as quickly. See, at first I figured they were trying to pull off the "this is not our main group" twist, not unlike the Friday the 13th remake (but with the bonus of a no-name cast not spoiling the "surprise" right off the bat). So when everyone started getting knocked off, I was like "OK, good job Asylum! You tricked me! Now, where's the real group?" But there isn't one, and thus the rest of the movie is little more than our surviving final girl getting captured, escaping, getting captured, escaping... By the 40 minute mark I was pretty goddamn bored, and there was just as much time to go.
Attempts to mix things up aren't much help. A revenge seeking dad shows up somewhere in there (in a scene set in a forest - I thought they were in the desert?), and kicks a little ass, but he's dead before long too. They even finally DO introduce a new car full of teens at the top of the 3rd act, which of course is too late to help much, but again, at least the FX are pretty decent when they too are killed 5 minutes later. It's as if screenwriter Steve Bevilacqua couldn't be bothered to plot out his movie in advance, raced through every idea he had in the first 25 pages, and then just grasped at straws to meet a minimum page count.
It's also impossible to care about anyone on either side of the "battle", because they can barely be bothered to let us know the characters' names, and the murky cinematography was no help - more than once I thought a character had died only to realize that it had to have been someone else once he/she "returned" in better light a few scenes later. The ending is supposed to be a shock twist, and it IS admirably grim/darkly funny, but again, it's so hard to see who is who, I almost missed the point of it entirely.
Plus everything just drags. One of the cannibals gets an iPod, and there's like 3-4 minutes of him playing with the damn thing; our girl seemingly spends half the movie either running out of harm's way or running back into it to save her boyfriend, and even the aforementioned "twist" ending goes on way too long. Basically one of the cannibals is screwing one of his "sisters" while she wears the face of a victim, but it goes on so long that even if I could make any of their faces out, I wouldn't be stunned by the reveal. Mostly I just sat there wondering if this cannibal had practiced tantric sex or something since he seemed to be able to hold off unusually long for a movie character. Hasn't he seen Halloween? Those guys knew how to get in and out of there so we can move things along!
Not content to merely steal from Hills, they also toss in some Texas Chainsaw plot points, plus a cop who turns out to be working with them, something that we've seen in a dozen or so of these movies. But like the other would-be heroes, the cop subplot seems tossed in when they realized the movie was coming up short, and amounts to absolutely nothing. He doesn't even die - he features in the penultimate scene and then the next just shows the sex - it's like they skipped a scene in between. I guess they figured it'd work better to preserve the surprise, but instead it just feels abrupt and awkward - you've been dragging things out for over 70 minutes, and NOW you're going to speed it up? Hilariously, the end credits run for like 7 minutes; I had time to read the first one 5 times before the second name appeared.
Glad Netflix saw fit to get this on their streaming program though. All the great movies that aren't even available on DVD yet, but this fucking thing is accessible no matter where you are!
What say you?