Red Hill is a phenomenal film that explores the element of revenge mixed with the racial tensions that have ruled Australian history for many years. This article is not about the film as a film nor is it a review necessarily but a look at how director Patrick Hughes incorporated many devices of the slasher genre into his movie. While the movie ultimately proves anything but a horror movie, it’s fantastic to take a look at how horror has played a role in being one of the more influential genres out there.
To give you a brief synopsis of the film, a young police officer by the name of Shane Cooper moves with his wife from the city out to the rural and desolate area of Red Hill. I don’t mean desolate in the negative way but more in the way that represents nothing around for miles and everyone’s neighbor seems to be a twenty minute drive away. Maybe empty or “spacious” is a better adjective to use but whatever the case, Cooper moves out to Red Hill for personal reasons. With his first awkward day underway at the local police station, there are reports of a prison break close by and a convict named Jimmy Conway has gotten loose. The town begins to panic for they all know that Jimmy will be heading up to Red Hill (the reason will not be spoiled for you…yet). What follows is Jimmy coming into town and picking off specific townspeople one by one. All these narratives come together for a rather predictable but amazing conclusion.
I am now going to list a number of examples as to why this film follows some slasher guidelines. There may be SPOLIERS after this point, so don’t yell at me if I ruin anything for you. Actually, there will be plenty of spoilers, watch the damn movie first.
Red Hill is not an overtly gory film but it is one that shows plenty of violence on screen that has lots of emotion behind it. The “villain” of Jimmy chases down a bunch of individuals one by one and kills them when he knows that they can see his face before they die. Violence in no way resembles only a horror film but there is something to be said about the way in which Jimmy destroys these guys and I will discuss more of that in a bit. The movie acts like a horror film too in the way it paces itself with a slow but interesting beginning that builds suspense because you know that something has to go wrong. At the beginning though, we feel safe with this young, good looking guy who is trying to make the best out of his situation. There is no danger to speak of right away but when word gets to the town that there is a prison break out nearby, that’s when you leave your comfort area. Wolfcreek and even Rogue work on this level of having a part of the film act as if nothing bad is going to happen, luring you into a place of security. The pacing being like this is reminiscent of the old slasher films, where the brutalizing attack on the group of individuals takes a bit of time but like an incoming storm, you know it’s there.
The “Villain”: Jimmy Conway
Jimmy by far is the most easily identifiable “slasher” homage in the movie and once you see him, you’ll understand. Like Jason Voorhees or Cropsy, Jimmy has visible deformities that were inflicted on him from the maltreatment of others. One side of his face is completely scarred and has a bit of Harvey Dent thing going on. The fact that Jimmy is of Aboriginal descent, makes him an outcast or “other” in the realm of Australia. Jason was an outcast because of his malformation and Freddy was thought to have been a pedophile. The correlation between being cast out and then exacting revenge is very apparent. With being cast out there is also the creation of visible deformities that mark that individual as the “other” something almost evil, even if they were not evil to begin with.
Jimmy runs around the town acting like a slasher as well, with his slow yet methodical movements that never seem to be too far away from his victims. Like it always goes, everyone is running but the killer walks fast and ends up being two steps ahead. Like the scene where they (the town’s people) think Jimmy is sitting and waiting in the car. They shoot the person in the front seat from a distance; run up thinking they finally killed Jimmy but it turns out it was just one of their friends. Then Jimmy comes barreling out of the alleyway blasting at everyone with his shot gun. To make him more unreal, Jimmy gets shot at a lot but is never killed nor is he hurt. He is this unstoppable force of revenge that has come to town to finish what was started, really a look into the power of good rather than evil.
Like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, Jimmy does not utter a single word (well, he says one thing in the end) but the inclusion of making him silent makes a huge impression on me. As if he is not trying to convince anyone that what he is doing is justifiable. He has a mission and it’s for personal redemption rather than preaching some sort of message. His back story makes you identify or at least sympathize with Jimmy, much like I do with Jason and Pamela Voorhees. His wife was murdered and raped; the people of the town blamed the murder on him and threw him in jail. His house was burned, while he was still inside and that left the scars on his face (so he is like a cooler Jonah Hex). What led up to this attack on Jimmy was the fact that he found an Aboriginal burial ground and he fought not to have anything built on there, this made the white people mad (as usual).
The “Heroine”: Shane Cooper
Shane in every way represents the heroine that happens to be in slasher flicks. A young person who is full of potential but has not reached that level of awareness. In most slasher films we see young virginal women who refuse to give in to their carnal nature and it is made to seem that they are the weak and clueless individual. When the climax of the film happens, they are the ones always standing with a bloody machete or axe that they have sunk into the killers head.
Shane Cooper at the beginning is young and new to this wild outback territory. We are told from the through some dialogue that Cooper failed to shoot a kid who was armed and willing to kill policemen. Of course this element plays out through the story. He is the weak cop that is unable to make the tough decisions. In the end he is able to fire his gun at the people who really deserve it. The redemption and rebirth of main characters plays a huge role, either doused in blood or rain, each time it is a “coming out of the womb phase”.
I think that I am writing only to those who have seen this movie because unless you have seen Red Hill, it is rather hard to describe how slasher devices play their roles. Patrick Hughes definitely grew up watching American horror films (he’s Australian and if you didn’t know by now, this is an Australian film, whether he watched American horror films or not is just an assumption) and rooting for both sides of the argument. He saw the power of the weak characters who sought only good and protecting values but at the same time he saw that the killers were just victims of horrible acts done by horrible people. In the end, Red Hill is hardly a horror film but the qualities are unmistakable. If you haven’t seen this movie, do it NOW, it is one of the better films I have seen in the last few years. It is a film that will leave you breathless and covered in blood.