Writer: Tomaz Gorkic
Stars: Nina Ivanisin, Lotos Sparovec, Nika Rozman
Boy, where does one go from a title like this? Do I even need to address this film’s play on words without seeming churlish? For a film like Killbillies, an apparent first foray into the horror genre for Slovenia, American audiences may see a misnomer: There are hillbillies in Slovenia? Don’t European countries call them gypsies (or the less negative Roma)? Without needing to answer these questions, here is simply what Killbillies is: A rather successful rough draft of a movie that heavily borrows from every “killer hillbilly” (There – I said it!) genre that precedes it.
This all leads to Zina agreeing to shoot a spread with Mia in the picturesque mountains of this Central European country. The backdrop of Slovenia is one of the film’s strengths. How can a place so beautiful host such vial hillbilly characters, who will soon kidnap, torture, and sexually assault Zina and crew? Besides the grotesque inevitability of the plot, somewhere in the vain of Wrong Turn meets Deliverance, the “killbillies” have ulterior motives that include, of all things, brewing Slovenian moonshine. (The process is not pretty!)
So, is this an American movie in Slovenia? The tropes are all there, but the southern redneck cliché has been replaced with inbreeded characters with the face of a mountain goat. If one knows even a bit Slovenian history, one would think such vagabond characters signified the fall of Yugoslavia, leaving a small minority to fend for themselves in the invisible borders that fractured the once bustling kingdom. Such a commentary, if one were present, would have some semblance to the lampooning of the redneck-killer stereotype, still mad about the Civil War and Reconstruction, ubiquitous in so many American horror films. Or perhaps a better example is Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, which manifests the anxieties of a post-Atomic age on small American families.
But none of that is here in Killbillies. There is nothing outside its frames to inform the viewer about the events within them. It’s a slasher B-movie with brutal violence and a decent enough protagonist. With little originality, Slovenia certainly has some work to do, but hopes are high. Perhaps a story a little less familiar (i.e. American) will better serve the most seasoned horror fan.
Eric Dinsmore | Twitter: @dinsmorality