“Killbillies” (2015): Old Formula With Some New Ingredients

Killbillies (aka Idila) is a 2015 film that boasts the ability to call itself “Slovenia’s first horror film.” In that regard, I give it credit for not only adequately handling and executing a familiar and some would say tired subgenre, but for also injecting some new ideas into it. Crazed hillbilly movies seem to always find me. This is the second or third I’ve reviewed for Gruesome Magazine alone, so I have a love/hate relationship with the subgenre, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see this one, especially with the cultural significance behind it.

Killbillies’  plot  is fairly simple. Our main heroine Zina, portrayed quite well by Nina Ivanisin, is a model nearing the end of her career due to age and an apparent lack of interest. She treks off to the woods with her younger colleague, a photographer and makeup artist, for a photo-shoot among the beautiful – and I can’t stress BEAUTIFUL enough  – backdrop of the Slovenian countryside. Naturally, they are beset by two crazed hillfolk that need the women for something other than you might think.

Before I get to what works with this movie, I’ll knock the proverbial junk out of the way. First, the score is all over the place. Composer Davor Herceg attempts the old loud noise jump scare technique at several points in the film. Normally, I don’t have an issue with that technique as long as there is some kind of pay-off. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Killbillies. Giant blasts of sound are set against our characters walking down a dark hallway or hiding behind trees and rocks. It is jarring, just not in the way it should be. The second, and only other problem I have with the movie is that some shots linger much, MUCH longer than they should. There are at least three instances where shots continue for 30 to 40 seconds before a cut away. And they linger, you guessed it, on people walking down a hallway or hiding behind trees and rocks. With these two exceptions, I don’t have many other issues with this movie. There may be a few pacing issues and the story may be a little generic, but there is enough here for a good time.

Let’s talk some hillbilly entrances. Our two antagonists, Vintlr and Francl, played with relish by Jurij Drevensek and Lotos Sparovec, enter this film in such a badass and foreboding way that there’s no mistaking these two jackholes mean business. The music, in one of the only scenes it works, swells as Vintlr and Francl appear, juxtaposed against a beautiful green field with an ominous yet gorgeous mountain range. Naturally, both of our crazed maniacs are disfigured, I would assume by inbreeding, though it’s never revealed. The makeup effects by Lana Rakanovic and her team are top notch given the funds with which they had to work. Scabs ooze pus and peel. Hair falls out. Dirty teeth, fingernails, and scars abound. It’s all there, fully on display. I don’t want to reveal their main motivation for doing what they do, so you’ll just have to stay in the dark on that. But personally, I’ve never seen it in a hillbilly flick … and I’ve seen a lot of ‘em.

The rest of the film’s relatively small cast all do their jobs quite well. Nika Rozman plays the younger model Mia, and she is so nerve shattering and annoying, that I instantly prayed to Cthulhu for her death. That was definitely the point of her character and she pulled it off in spades. Our only male protagonist, photographer Blitcz, played by Sebastian Cavazza, also conveys his part well enough. However, other than the makeup artist Dragica (kick-ass name) who only serves as a way of revealing the hillbillies’ motive, he has the shortest amount of screen time. In other words, this movie is all about the girl power and it certainly goes for the gusto.

The influence of other hillbilly movies is felt at every turn. Writer/Director Tomaz Gorkic clearly did his homework while writing and designing the set pieces. Take a little Wrong Turn into The Hills (that) Have Eyes and you’ll definitely meet  Killbillies. However, unlike those two gore fests, the gore here isn’t too extreme. There is a lot of blood, but not too many instances of out and out gore. Even though some gorehounds may be a little disappointed, I honestly felt that the level of carnage delivered was more than adequate.

The last thing I want to address here is the scenery. Beautiful. Cinematographer Nejc Saje frames the Slovenian landscape with such passion that at certain points, I found myself just staring at lush greens and yellows, paying no attention to the action on screen. To its credit, in contrast to most movies in its respective subgenre, Killbillies takes place in stark daylight where everything can be seen in its full picturesque glory.

Killbillies isn’t anything new or groundbreaking. What it is though, is a very solid entry into its subgenre, an entry that tries a few tricks and succeeds with most of them. See it for the landscape, the performances and solely for the fact that it’s a bit of a landmark film being Slovenia’s first horror flick. It clocks in at around 80 minutes and I can think of a thousand worse ways to spend 80 minutes.

Killbillies 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Adam Thomas
Adam Thomas was born and raised in the greater metro Detroit area of Michigan where he still resides with his wife and new baby girl. A mig welder by trade and a fan of all things fantastic and macabre. 80’s slasher movies are his main bag, but he doesn’t shy away from anything. Craft beer connoisseur, struggling podcaster and failed male model, he lives for the horror and will die by the sword.