Tomaz Gorkic - 2015
Artsploitation Films Region 1 DVD
Yes, this film is from Slovenia, the country that gave us Melania Trump, and I'm probably not alone at groaning when I saw that title. But beyond that, this is a nifty film that makes the most out of a small cast and a handful of locations.
As the title suggests, this is a rural horror film, something that recalls The Hills have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with its family of miscreants. Deliverance also comes to mind. Two men, possibly brothers, both facially deformed, terrorize a photographer, his make-up artist, and two models who were planning to do a photo shoot in some very pretty country near the mountains, hence the original title. The quartet is captured and kept in a dark cellar. Gorkic contrasts the sunny, open countryside with enclosed, dimly lit space where the men keep their prisoners, and house a makeshift laboratory.
One of the most horrific scenes achieves its power through what is imagined rather than what is seen, with a montage that tells the viewer just enough about what is happening to the victim, followed by shots of liquids running through tubes and into bottles. There is more graphic horror at the end, something that Gorkic builds up to, following the escalation of dread.
For those who care to look more closely, Killbillies casually critiques classism, sexism, and unthinking consumer culture. Attractive women are prized commodities, usually valued for their looks, while the men here are id dominant in varying degrees. The film mostly focuses on Zina, the first character we see, who ties the film together, making explicit the connections of the other characters. What at first appears to be a scene of a girls' night out is the set up for the rest of the film and Gorkic's themes. Another indication that Gorkic has more on his mind that simply scaring his viewers is that while he is aware that audience identification will more naturally go towards the most photogenic of his characters, it is the most monstrous person, the burly Francl, who has the most human moment during a brief, but telling, cry of grief.
Killbillies is both Tomaz Gorkic's first feature, after several short films, but also the first Slovenian horror film. It turns out that the main location for the horror, a large, ruined stone fortress is a real tourist attraction, Fort Hermann, built in 1906, and partially destroyed during World War I.