Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Killbilles: Hicksploitation in Slovenia

Sure, NATO and EU membership were important milestones for Slovenia, but the production of its first homegrown hillbilly horror film is just as significant, if not more so. If there is one thing that inevitably comes with socio-economic development, it is an embarrassed discomfort at the sight of the country’s backwoods folk and a casual willingness to equate them with inbreeding, sadism, and hard liquor. So congratulations to Slovenia for becoming a fully-fledged member of the community of nations thanks to screenwriter-director Tomaz Gorkic’s Killbillies (trailer here), which releases today on DVD and VOD, from Artsploitation.

Zina is getting too “old” and far too self-aware to continue her modeling career, but she always enjoyed working on aging hipster Blitcz’s shoots, so she takes another fateful assignment with him. They will be shooting in the countryside, so we pretty much know where this is going. Zina definitely looks and sounds like “Final Girl” material, whereas her younger, shallower colleague Mia should be an easy kill. As it happens, the deformed hill people who capture them brew the mysterious moonshine that has become so popular in trendy Ljubljana night clubs. What’s in their potent potable? Ever seen Soylent Green?

Gorkic largely plays the exploitative material straight, which is both a blessing and a curse. At least, the Julian Alps (or whatever mountainous tax-credit extending region it was filmed in) certainly look cinematic and Zina is an appealingly assertive hero. However, we have been down this lonesome country road before—and Gorkic never really adds any distinctly Slovenian flourishes.

Still, the novelty of Slovenia’s first native horror film speaks for itself. It also boasts a surprisingly recognizable cast, including Nina Ivanisin (probably best known for A Call Girl) going Ellen Ripley on the inbred freaks and Sebastian Cavazza (Halima’s Path) as the tall, dark, and intense Blitcz, both of whom acquit themselves quite well, all things considered.

It is strangely encouraging to know this exists, but whether you should spend any time with it is a question only you can answer for yourself. Recommended for fans of grisly cannibal exploitation, Killbillies is now available on DVD and VOD platforms (including Vimeo), from Artsploitation.