After a night of carousing, the amateur photo model Zina heads for a fashion shoot in the nature, accompanied by the ambitious Mia, apathetic Dragica and snobby photographer Blitcz. On the idyllic location, a supposedly ordinary fashion shoot soon turns into a fierce fight for survival.
Originally titled Idila or the English-language Idyll – which is defined as “an extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque episode or scene, typically an idealized or unsustainable one” – the new Slovenian horror film Killbillies is now available on DVD from Artsploitation.
Killbilllies. While that pretty much sums up the entire film, it also cheapens the product a bit. Sure, with such an exploitative and bold title, you’ll draw in countless numbers of a certain type of viewer, but you might lose others. I guess it all evens out.
Zina (Nina Ivanisin) is a fashion model who is thinking about throwing in the towel. In what she swears will be her last job – following a night of drinking with friends – she goes to a remote forest outside the city, with photographer Blitcz (Sebastian Cavazza), fellow model Mia (Nika Rozman) and make-up artist Dragica (Manca Ogorevc) – to shoot some still photos in the great outdoors. On the way to the middle of nowhere, Blitcz stops to try and haggle with some hillbillies for some of their homemade liquor (Zina and her friends happened to have been drinking this stuff the night before). Once they reach their location, a couple of other hillbillies attack and kidnap them. The rest of the film revolves around the group’s attempts at escape and the macabre reason the hicks want them in the first place.
You’ll see clear inspiration from films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and moreso – John Boorman’s classic Deliverance. It’s the clear delineation of spoiled and entitled urban folk and their poor, uneducated country hillbilly counterparts. I wish the film went a little further to examine this dichotomy, but the piece just isn’t that deep.
That’s not to say it’s a waste of time. The film is gorgeous to look at. All of the technical pieces are in great shape. The locations (looking to be straight out of The Sound of Music – even the tagline is “The hills are alive with the sound of… SLAUGHTER!”) are grand and sweeping and inspirational, and the filmmakers do a splendid job of capturing all of that breathtaking grandeur. It’s a nice change of pace to see a horror film in mostly broad daylight and in beautiful backgrounds – i.e. not a dank swamp or a desert or a wintry wasteland. This place is lush!
The make-up effects and splatter work (there’s lots of it, believe me) are a definite highlight of Killbillies. The nasty faces of the two main hillbillies are seamlessly done and their reddened, deformed faces will stick with you (in your nightmares if not your “that was very well done” film-watching pleasure centers). The gore is rampant and while some of it borders on “torture porn”, it’s overall a good time and well done.
I wasn’t terribly fond of some of the almost pitch-black (in picture, not tone) sequences. It became difficult to know exactly what was going on (were it not for the score). On the other hand, the filmmakers used some sort of lighting trick which – in the darkness – captured the tiniest bits of moisture in the actor’s eyes, and it ends up being a very creepy and clever effect.
I found the setup (if not the payoff) intriguing. This is not a group of friends going out for a drunken weekend, looking to raise hell. This is a group of basic work-related acquaintances who happen to fall into a terrible situation together. While that’s a novelty, and we don’t have the benefit of family bonds or deep friendships to latch onto, we also don’t have the benefit of family bonds or deep friendships to garner sympathy. There’s little character development in the film and it leaves you feeling pretty shallow. I like that this group doesn’t really know one another, but on the other hand – we just don’t care.
Performances are all great. Lead actress Ivanisin is a good screamer and final girl (don’t tell me you didn’t know this was coming) and she has one terrifically emotional scene as she and Mia attempt an escape. When they discover something on their way out of this place, Zina has to try to calm Mia (the hysterical and useless one) before they encounter this particular difficulty. It’s a very nice moment from Ivanisin and unexpected in what is a good performance, but a broad one nonetheless.
As Mia, Rozman gets all the good dialogue. Mia is an overly-chatty and flighty model. Her constant babbling in the beginning of the film – as the group travels to their location – is annoying, but also kind of endearing. Mia’s trying so darn hard to be a big time model, she doesn’t know when to shut the hell up. You’ll like Mia – even if she grates on your nerves as she does the other characters.
As the main hillbilly, Francl, Lotos Sparovec is appropriately brawny and therefore scary. The character’s unique habit of – I guess it was some sort of belching – was a great way to make Francl even more grotesque. You could practically smell the mouth rot and body odor emanating from the screen. He was gross – which means, the performance was well done.
And I do want to give a shout-out to a small supporting performance from Damjana Cerne as the female hillbilly. She has but two minutes of screen-time and only two scenes, but with her wicked laugh (the editing helped out a lot here), she steals every one of those few seconds.
While this was an enjoyable piece, it’s nothing memorable. There’s not much to it, and the lack of suspense makes the 20-minute chase scene in the climax drag on endlessly. There was a point where my internal monologue finally screamed out, “Is it over yet?”
Solid performances, plenty of irony and technical achievements to tout for days, Killbillies is good, but not great. Worth a look, but again – don’t expect to run out and add this one to your permanent collection.
Killbillies is now available on the aforementioned DVD and also on VOD.