Although I have seen these three movies, it’s the last – The Hills Run Red – that I remember the best, especially for the fact that I have the DVD, and I have seen this movie a dozen times, because I really appreciate it. It’s not a fantastic movie, however, but it’s definitely my type of horror.
In The Hills Run Red, Hilgenbrink plays Tyler, a young student that is undergoing a personal project. He wants to do a documentary about an obscure horror movie, titled The Hills Run Red, and the director, Wilson Wyler Concannon (played by William Sadler). The film is considered lost, no copies are known to exist and the director apparently disappeared in mysterious circumstances after the movie was released. Tyler is passionate and enthusiastic about his project, and has located Alexa (played by Sophie Monk), the daughter of Concannon, to dive further into a deep investigation. She is a stripper in a club, and he wants to find her, to discover everything he can about the movie and the director, and why both mysteriously vanished. His girlfriend, Serena (played by the gorgeous and fabulous Janet Montgomery) and his friend Lalo (played by Alex Wyndham) join him in the adventure.
Tyler locates Alexa, and she strips for him. He lets her know that he doesn’t want her services, he just want to ask her some questions, but she tells him that they better pretend, because they are being watched, and she stares at a discreet camera on the ceiling. She whispers to him, to wait for her outside. Upon finishing her shift, both drive to her place. After acknowledging that she is a drug addict, he locks her and forces her to undergo a hazardous, deliberate and stressful period of abstinence, to fully recover from the drugs and its pernicious effects. At first, she goes furious and insane, but after detoxifying, she became more healthy and reasonable.
The premise of the movie basically revolves around a dark character called Babyface, a vicious and sadistic killer. After interviewing local hillbillies – that saw some of the original shooting, as well as the movie when it premiered on a local theater –, that seems friendly at first, but afterwards attack them in their bonfire encampment, threatening to sexually violate the girls, Babyface comes from the darkness, and kills the aggressive hillbillies. The four, feeling threatened, untie and escape from Babyface, seeking refugee towards a cabin in the secluded forest.
Eventually, while running away from Babyface, the group split, but all of them become trapped in different places and situations. After Alexa disappears, Tyler enters the cabin to search for her, and finds her almost naked tied up to a bed. But then Babyface attacks again. Alexa then orders Babyface to go after them.
Tyler eventually finds a dark room full of film reels, and he recognizes himself in some of them. After being assaulted and beaten, Tyler loses his conscience, and wakes up tied to a chair, just to see Concannon suddenly joining him, after being misinformed by Alexa that her father had been dead for years. Concannon reveals to Tyler that the movie is still being shot to this day, and that all of the original cast were amateur actors. After seeing some footage, Tyler realizes, to his distress, that all the killing done in the movie was real.
Concannon also shows Tyler footage of himself touching Alexa’s breasts, when the two were confined all alone, during the abstinence crisis that Tyler forced Alexa to undergo. It is then implied that – when Tyler first contacted Alexa – she probably told everything to her father, that managed to plant cameras on Alexa’s nightclub and flat, to continue the shooting of his movie with new victims. Alexa acted as a voluntary bait, to attract them to a trap.
Meanwhile, Alexa proceeds to torture Lalo, and manages to kill him. Concannon and Alexa then argue about the direction the movie should go, and after feeling jealous about her cinematic virtues, Concannon tells Alexa that he is the only talent in the family, and kills her. Babyface becomes enraged, intervenes, and kills Concannon, with Tyler’s encouragement, Before his execution, Concannon reveals a secret, upon which becomes implicit that Babyface may be the offspring of an incestuous relationship between Concannon and his daughter Alexa.
For me, this is the movie that is the pearl on Tad Hilgenbrink’s career. Another movie that highlighted him in a lead role was 2006 The Curiosity of Chance (but I haven’t seen this one). Apparently, the actor was active in the film industry for about five years only, from 2004 to 2009, participating in thirteen movies in this short period. He was never seen again in any other movies, nor TV shows. He is absent from the screen for almost ten years now. What has happened to him?
He simply disappeared, like the director Wilson Wyler Concannon, from The Hills Run Red. Having become exasperated with acting, he retired from the spotlight and probably just changed occupations. Why not? This would not have been the first time, many other people have done that. Famous actress Kay Panabaker ended her career in 2012, after eleven years in the industry, to work in zoology. Another notorious actress, the beautiful and talented Leelee Sobieski, ended her career in the same year, 2012, after successful seventeen years in the movie industry. Or he may just be taking a break. Actress Alison Lohman stopped acting in 2009, the same year as Hilgenbrink, but returned briefly in 2015, to stop acting again, in the next year.
Or – who knows – he could have died, and no one noticed. Who really knows, besides people on his personal circle? It would be good to know, out of curiosity. Nevertheless, his brief career was a highlight for horror movies enthusiasts, and although his legacy is modest in quantity, certainly he compensates on the great dramatic quality of his memorable performances.