Feature: Red Hill
By Sam Dallas
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. High Plains Drifter. No Country For Old Men.
Here in Australia Mad Max comes to mind.
The latest revenge movie vying to join that elite list is Red Hill, set in the modern-day small Victorian town of Omeo.
At a time when old-school westerns have gone off the radar, it is exciting times for fans of the once extremely popular genre.
Westerns will always have a place in the screen industry.
“I’m always surprised when some genres evaporate,” Red Hill and veteran producer Al Clark says.
“It just usually means that no one has made anything outstanding in that realm for a while.”
Will Red Hill revive the western genre in Australia?
The film dates back to creator Patrick Hughes’ childhood.
Travelling from Sydney to Melbourne regularly as a child, Hughes would spend time in isolated, small country towns.
It was one town in particular that took his fancy – Omeo – and in his youth, he even did some horse riding down the main street. Fast forward to 2009 and he was directing actors to do the very same thing in his feature debut.
“It’s very isolated – that isolation creates that ‘thriller element’,” says Hughes, who also penned the script, co-produced and edited the 96-minute, MA-rated film.
“I was looking at the landscape and thinking ‘why hasn’t anyone told a modern-day western?’”
Speaking to INSIDEFILM from his new hometown of Los Angeles, the young storyteller says he was always a fan of westerns growing up as there was a “rawness” to them.
“What I love about them is the exploration of a moral code and I think every western is tied to that,” Melbourne-raised Hughes says.
The locals of Omeo were completely behind the project from day one – including the East Gippsland Shire Council – which was needed since the crew would be there for six weeks and shooting for four.
Ryan Kwanten in a scene from the film
“It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have a backdrop like that,” Hughes explains.
Clark grew up loving westerns and got behind the project after having dinner in September 2008 with Hughes and Wolf Creek director Greg McLean (who also performs executive producing duties on Red Hill).
“Patrick told us what he wanted to do, which was to write a low-budget western,” Clark says.
“He would go to Omeo in the Victorian high country to write it: it would be set there, the shoot would be financed privately and he would call us when the script was ready, counting on our support.
“It became very clear that something exciting was going to emerge out of it.”
Check out the full story in the upcoming December-January issue of INSIDEFILM magazine, which will be released next week. Red Hill is in cinemas now.