Hillside Cannibals DVD Review

Written by Sham

DVD released by The Asylum

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Directed by Leigh Scott
Written by Steve Bevilacqua
2006, Region 1 (NTSC), 83 minutes, Not Rated

Starring:
Heather Conforto as Linda
Tom Nagel as Bill
Vaz Andreas as Callum
Frank Pacheco as Magnus
Erica Roby as Rhian
Marie Westbrook as Tog

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Review:

Asylum.

It’s a word that evokes such dread and consternation that you barely even want to think about it. You hear the word, and you instantly want to turn away and hide.

Ironically, I look forward to spending my time every month with The Asylum. No, I’m not talking about an institution for the criminally insane. I’m thinking more along the lines of the low-budget studio that’s been releasing horror movies, often respectable gems, for several years now.

Each month, they release a new movie. December commemorated the release of King of the Lost World, which marketed off of the big-screen debut of Peter Jackson’s ape-sized epic, King Kong.

Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers kicked off the New Year in January, hitting video stores alongside its comparable inspiration, The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

February was right around the corner, and as the financially successful remake of When a Stranger Calls hit the silver screen, so did When a Killer Calls, a direct-to-video and superior version of the same tale.

Hillside Cannibals is one of the latest additions to their increasing collection of movies that market off of other bigger budgeted genre films. It’s no surprise that it promotes itself off the success of The Hills Have Eyes, Alexandre Aja’s remake of the 1977 classic, but there is absolutely no excuse for a movie this redundant.

Either The Asylum got lucky with King of the Lost World, Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers and When a Killer Calls, or a wasted opportunity like Hillside Cannibals is completely accidental. I’m hoping the latter.

The movie has an annoying opener: Five young friends, looking to be in their mid-20’s but are actually in high school, have just arrived in an isolated desert. As they get out of their vehicle, one character turns to the other and asks, “Did you remember to bring the pot?”

More importantly, did she forget to ask during the long drive? It’s a little late to turn back now if they forgot, isn’t it?

I understand including plot fillers, a device used to delay the bloodshed yet to come, but that line is incredibly superfluous, especially when the character pulls out a bag of the shit big enough to fit a Butterball turkey. Try fitting that in your pocket, or better yet, try hiding it from the cops.

From then on, I lost all interest for the characters. The sooner these characters would die, the happier I’d be.

Kidding you not, just as I was thinking this, a clan of murderous cannibals seemingly pops out of nowhere and attacks the party. In less than five minutes, three are graphically dispatched, one is captured, and the fifth gets away.

That. Kicks. Ass.

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Sadly, immediately following this zestful massacre, the movie loses all momentum. The premise now centers on young couple Linda (Heather Conforto – The Beast of Bray Road) and Bill (Tom Nagel – Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove), who, when they’re not being chained up and tortured in a hillside cave, run around the desert the rest of the movie. Conforto and Nagel’s characters are not fleshed out enough to carry the film for the next hour. The script literally calls for the cannibals to walk around in their skin, but I expected dust to fly out for every puncture wound and knife stabbing inflicted on these people. There’s just nothing going on under there. I don’t blame the actors — they do what they can with what they have to work with — but the script could have personified their roles a lot more.

What the movie lacks in plot and character development, it tries to make up for in gore. Sadly, the only standout death sequence is the aforementioned scene involving the massacre. The effect, a torso being chopped in half and dragged away, is equal parts gruesome and memorable, and a later shot of the corpse lying on a table is superbly established. There’s also a nasty scene with a character eating — or drinking from — a severed boob, something I never thought I’d see in any movie of any genre.

The cannibals, played by people you may have seen in other Asylum pictures, are described by a character as “Deliverance on steroids,” and instead of being haunting and malignant, they are stereotypical and forgettable. I have trouble believing that the cannibals haven’t developed some type of communication, like a language that doesn’t consist of merely grunts and snorts. They act like strangers amongst each other and, during a scene where a cannibal kills his own brother, I questioned why these monsters stayed together in the first place.

The script is just terrible. It doesn’t even try to personify any of the cannibals like many other films have, including the original Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn. The cannibals in Hillside each have names according to the credits, but they’re personalities are all the same that you lose track and interest of who’s who. Even when you’re trying to keep up with the cannibals, the other part of your brain is trying to get past the ample amount of plot holes. Truthfully, inbred cannibals do not have longer life spans, so Sawney Bean (Leigh Scott – Dead Men Walking) existing in modern times is completely inaccurate and impossible. Geographically, woods are not in the running distance of the desert. Anatomically, intestines are not in the hip and would not spill out of the bottom half of the body. Lazily, the script and filmmakers don’t correct these flaws. I can overlook a lot of minor problems, but anyone who’s been paying attention to the movie can, and will, notice these things.

I know — I shouldn’t be taking the movie so seriously. However, movies that take themselves seriously are less likely to evoke a positive reaction out of the viewer. There are entertaining bad movies, and there are just bad movies in general. Hillside Cannibals is unfortunately the second. Even a bad movie like Shapeshifter, one of The Asylum’s weaker films, seemed to have a self-awareness about it that made it watchable. I can’t say the same for Hillside Cannibals

The Asylum, your name emits feelings of concern and apprehension. Don’t let fans approach your films with the same attitude.

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Special Features:

  • Behind the Scenes Featurette
  • Cast and Crew Commentary
  • Trailers

The Asylum always delivers with great special features, and the commentary with Leigh Scott, Tom Downey, and Amanda Barton is no exception. Covering many different elements of the film, they discuss the location, costumes, the actors, the script, and also the camera work.

The only problem with the commentary is they are often too far away from the mic, and at other times, they are entirely too close. I had to have my remote handy.

The 14-minute featurette is absolutely awesome. It’s like a “how to” segment of gore and special effects. Much of the featurette is covered by FX coordinator Rich Calderon, and it’s really cool in seeing how he accomplished some of the effects. Remember the severed boob I talked about earlier? He has a little bit of fun with that here, including a bizarre triple-breast prop that’s oddly intriguing.

Topping off the special features are trailers for When a Killer Calls, King of the Lost World, Shapeshifter, Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers, and Hillside Cannibals.

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Video and Audio:

Like King of the Lost World, the video quality here is extremely clear and focused. Colors are striking and never bleed, and even the darker sequences are grain-free.

The 5.1 Surround Sound is occasionally too quiet in relation to the dialogue, but the bass is great and the music by Mel Lewis is suiting. I just wish that the dialogue, even though there’s not a lot of it, was less subjugated by the score.

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Grades:

Movie: Oneandahalfstars Hillside Cannibals Cover
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Hillside Cannibals Vod
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Video: Fourstars
Audio: Fivestars
Features: Threeandahalfstars
Overall: Twoandahalfstars

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Conclusion:

If you only care about the quality of the movie, stay as far away from this DVD as possible.

If you like interesting special features, consider renting this one.

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