I have long been a proponent of sub-B movies. It wasn’t long ago I praised Don Dohler’s “classic” Galaxy Invader, an objectively terrible movie that is fun precisely because of its low-budget terribleness. But there’s an earnestness and love for the material that is really fun to watch.
It’s also impossible to think of sub-B movies and not think of Ed Woods’ entire career. Plan 9 From Outer Space is the easiest to reference (mainly because it’s the one I’ve seen the most), full of swaying tombstones and terrible acting and a nonsensical plot and all matter of other shenanigans.
That’s not to say that all sub-B movies are terrible. When I think about no-budget movies, the zombie movie Colin comes to mind. It was made for less than $200, and it shows, but it’s a terrific movie that offers a different look at the zombie genre. It may be cheap, but it’s lovely and sweet and heartbreaking and terrific, provided you can get past some of the sound/lighting/acting limitations.
One thing all of those movies have in common is a love for the genre, and an honest desire to make a good movie, even if there isn’t enough money to throw a glossy coat of paint over it. A filmmaker is a filmmaker, regardless of how much money they have.
Night of the Living Dead. Halloween. Evil Dead. The Blair Witch Project. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Manos: The Hands of Fate. Basket Case. It’s Alive. The Stuff. Chopping Mall. Midnight Movie. Motel Hell. Sleepaway Camp. Anything Troma puts out. Horror has a long-standing history with low-to-no budget movies. Every movie I just listed is enjoyable, if not always for the same reason.
Made on a budget of $5,000, Hills and Hollers certainly fits into the no-budget category. The production values are low, but there is a charm and love that is present every step of the way.
We start off the movie with a wannabe rock star and his gum-snapping girlfriend as they wind their way through Indiana backroads. Even before they encounter a leering creep in a gas station parking lot, we know how their story ends: quickly and with guts strewn on the blade of a chainsaw. They’re the cannon fodder to whet our appetite, and I was not the least bit sorry to see them go.
For the rest of the movie, we follow around Frank and Patricia, a newly pregnant couple just trying to make their way in the world. And also to escape from a gang of silent, backwoods psychopaths with a love of power tools.
I had actually come up with names for each of these psychopaths, only to find out that they already had names. I will say that their actual names were better than my made-up names, but only slightly. I have a very high opinion of my ability to name masked killers. Everyone has a gift.
This is by no means a great movie. The budget is low, the action is slow and there is a 5+ minute scene of our heroes talking about the rules to a card game. (Considering the movie has a run time of slightly less than an hour, that card scene really sticks out.)
No, it’s not great. But, provided you’re in the right mindset, it can be a ton of fun. I loved the villains as they trudged through the forest in their makeshift killing clothes. I loved the man who kept using his blowtorch on every rock and plant he passed. I loved how Frank had a couple scenes where he spouted action movie clichés. I loved the look of entrails draped over a chainsaw. I loved how the washed-up rocker guy wandered a solid 200 yards from his car to urinate, allowing him to be killed without alerting his girlfriend. I loved the deaths (particularly the final one). I loved the scenes of Frank and Patricia eluding their captors through the hills of Indiana, with the fall leaves fresh on the ground. I loved it all.
Throw on Hills and Hollers and embrace the low budget nature. You’ll be glad you did.