Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Killbillies is a Slash from the Past: A Film Review

*full disclosure: minor spoilers are here.

Director/writer: Tomaz Gorkic.

Cast: Nina Ivanisin, Lotos Sparovec, Nika Rozman and Sebastian Cavazza.

Killbillies is the first horror film from the country of Slovenia. Located in Eastern Europe, this locale offers a very rural backdrop, where cannibals can kill again and again. An Artsploitation Films' release, this title, which was scheduled to release in October, is already available on Youtube. And, gorehounds will want to take a look at this title as Killbillies offers many creative blood effects. But, horror vets' may have seen this film before. Director Tomaz Gorkic has been heavily influenced by Tobe Hooper's 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; many scenes from this earlier title are replayed here. Still, Killbillies offers a lot of terror, in the gorgeous backdrop of Slovenia.

The film begins with a photographer and his two models. They setup a shoot, in the Slovenian countryside. But then, a duo of hillbillies enter into the fray. They don't want their picture taken. Instead, they are out for blood! Soon, four fashionistas are trapped in an underground cellar. Some of the characters are tortured, while others are just confined in all that darkness. The models must find a way out, if they can only just trick one of the local, deformed inbreds, out of his keys. In the countryside, events take a nasty turn, when Zina (Nina Ivanisin) makes good her escape. A bit of roadkill propels this feature into truly gory territory.

The backdrop of Slovenia is a gorgeous sight. The film almost plays out like a tourist advert', for this remote haven and set locale. Though the film is shot mostly in a darkened interior, the exteriors are remarkable for contrasting with the earlier, darker parts. The natural light amplifies the terror on-screen and the expressions of the characters. Darkness creates tension in earlier parts. But, the brighter third act offers more impact, when the characters' terror can actually be seen. Zina no longer has anywhere to hide in these brighter, sun-lit scenes. As well, the Slovenian countryside becomes a villain, itself as it hampers Zina's escape.

There is also a good deal of believable gore in Killbillies. The blood effects can often be shocking. The make-up effects were composed by a seven person team. As well, the make-up effects and visual effects' teams composed a large part of the cast, so a lot of attention was paid to make body parts splatter, realistically. For instance, in one scene, a villainous character emerges from a darkened doorway, axe-in-hand and ready for blood. One of the minor characters is taken unaware and the subsequent decapitation is particularly over-the-top. Your gag reflex may be triggered, or your funny bone, if you have seen as many horror films as this reviewer. Other horrific scenes include stabbings, bludgeonings and general torture. Another remarkable scene, involving a strapped down helpless victim, is especially disturbing. Brain matter has more than one use - apparently. Director Tomaz Gorkic has developed a very gruesome tale with Killbillies and gorehounds should reap the rewards.

Gorkic is paying homage to an earlier film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with Killbillies. There are many similarities between Killbillies and this earlier film. Many of the blackhats, in both films, are cannibals. But, within Killbillies, the focus is on drinking, rather than eating the victims. Though, no one stands out as a more sensational cannibal than Leatherface! Also, both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Killbillies create this us-vs-them dynamic, where the countryfolk prey upon the more naive cityfolk. This dynamic creates much of tension and subsequent violence, in both of these grisly films. Finally, both horror films were created with modest budgets, but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre still stands-out for its ability to bring so much terror to the screen. There are few images more scarred into the cortex than Leatherface and his swinging chainsaw. Unfortunately, the central villain, in Killbillies, - Francl - (Lotos Sparovec) is much less menacing. Still, Killbillies is a strong entry into the slasher genre and this is a genre which needs more features, like this one.

Killbillies is an Eastern European look at North American cinema. The result is a bloody, but somewhat memorable affair. Some of the interior scenes were shot too darkly. But, the exterior shooting of Slovenia and the local forested areas contrast well with these earlier scenes. All of the make-up effects, within Killbillies, are well done, thus increasing the film's shock factor. While the film does stick a little too closely to Tobe Hooper's groundbreaking picture, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there is still a lot to commend Tomaz Gorkic for. Slasher film fans are encouraged to take a walk down this darkened, bloodied and corpse filled memory lane.

Overall: 7 out of 10.

*Killbillies as Idyll has won at least five Best Film awards.

Killbillies at Artsploitation Films: Killbillies Release Details at Artsploitation

The film's fan page: Killbillies at Facebook

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