A fashion shoot set amongst the countryside starts out well enough until some of the locals take issue with the city-folk intruding in on their territory. However, two deformed men in particular take offense and do more than just harass the group and decide to abduct them and chain them up in the basement. Now Mia, Zina, Dragica and Blitcz must fight their way to freedom and escape the wooded maze if they wish to avoid the horrifying plans that the deranged rednecks have for them.
As much as film nerds love to reminisce about the good ol’ days, a great thing about this current era of filmmaking, for better or worse, is that affordable technology is giving people a chance to make a movie who might not have been able to otherwise. Just this year we saw the release of “The Man in the Orange Jacket” (“M.O.Ž.”) — the first horror movie from Latvia. And now thanks to Artsploitation, we have a release for Slovenia’s first horror movie, “Killbillies” (“Idila”).
When you have an English title like “Killbillies”, the story seems obvious enough. It’s the standard plot about a young woman who has a sexual awakening when she becomes involved with another young woman who’s more of a free spirit. In the process of discovering one another, they both have to come to terms with the fact that their current reality is nothing more than an artificial existence that’s been created for the who are reaching the end of their life.
Wait. No. I think I’m getting “Killbillies” mixed up with an episode of “Black Mirror” but, to be fair, it’s easy to see how I was able to get the two mixed up!
In hindsight, this horrible attempt at a joke was dated before I started typing even though Series 3 of “Black Mirror” has only been out for a week.
I’ll admit that joke seemed somewhat amusing in my head at the time but now I’m mostly filled with regret.
Anyway, yes, with a title like “Killbillies”, it’s obvious where the story is going to go: moderately attractive adults head out into the woods and are terrorized, tortured and killed by disfigured rednecks. Except the difference this time around is that the rednecks are not cannibals but are in fact using the people they abduct and murder to produce moonshine. Certainly an unusual take in terms of reasoning/motivation but it’s such a trivial point in the story — like all backwoods-slashers — that it doesn’t do anything to separate “Killbillies” from its peers.
It is hard to fault the film for being repetitious since horror movie genres, by and large, are formulaic. With “Killbillies” though, the audience is simply going through the motions. Just waiting for it to hit the next familiar beat, which is what kills the horror and the tension. The one unique element that the movie offers is limited to singular scene that shows what and why this psychotic-hicks do what they do. Everything following that scene — which lasts all of maybe 5-minutes — is the familiar stalk-n-slash process where our survival-girl is running through the woods, trying to escape papa-hick.
Now this is where we get into the paradoxical nature of this review because the formulaic, genre-basic nature of “Killbillies” is also a good thing.
A movie doesn’t have to be original, a tour de force, genre breaking or whatever clichéd critic terminology you want to use, in order to be good or successful. It just needs to offer something to makeup for the fact, like entertainment or technical execution. In the case of “Killbillies”, the film comes up short because it’s lacking in both the horror and entertainment department, but it does succeed on a technical level. For a country’s first horror film, and a director’s first feature, “Killbillies” is a surprisingly competent film. Sure, it seems like it should be easy enough for a film to work when it’s repeating plot and structure, but it’s staggering how many productions fuck up doing what other movies have done for decades.
The reason I’m willing to say that it’s okay the the film is redundant and even a good because producing a movie that’s technically sound is not only a commendable achievement, but it’s starting from a point that’s easy to move up. Tomaz Gorkic and his team have show they have the ability to make a horror movie, and the quality in terms of story is something that will (hopefully) improve with each production. Not only that, but I hope that it’ll help inspire other would-be filmmakers in Slovenia — or any country that may not produce genre titles — to give it a shot.
And I understand that while I’m being hard on the movie for its repetitious nature, I know that there are viewers out there that will absolutely love “Killbillies”. As I said, it wasn’t bad, or at least, I didn’t have a bad time watching it. I was just bored. For fans who love their horror films about murderous mountain folk, “Killbillies” should play well for them. A bit light on the body count, but it hits all of the necessary beats that it needs to. It just needs to play for the right audience members.