Thursday, January 29, 2009

KBT Presents: KING OF THE HILL (El Rey de la Montaña)

KBT returns after a 5 month hiatus!  And with a gorgeous Spanish thriller that is at times intriguing, confounding and rewarding (and about in that order).  It is a mystery that is heavy on thrills which involves an urban man very much out of his element.  He is hung out to dry in the wilderness in a way that recalls John Boorman's Deliverance as much as it does Gus Van Sant's Gerry.  Yet it is shot with the visual splendour of a grainy 16mm ode to House of Flying Daggers. King of the Hill (not to be at all confused with the animated TV show) is a heady cocktail of familiar and upsetting elements that uses a very simple hook, one that is familiar enough to filmgoers:  folks hunted by unknown assailents; although it is nowhere near the horror/stalker variety (albeit some might find a tangential link to Michael Haneke's Funny Games.  To reveal more is to detract from the films very purpose.  Suffice it to say that morality, enginuity, trust and resolve are key ingredients juggled in the air by the few characters being stalked and eventually the stalkers.  Visceral and cerebral (and eventually fueled by a strange form of 21st century hysteria) in equal parts rarely mixed in a genre film, I find it difficult to believe that Hollywood will ever get the brass cojones to attempt a remake.

For fans of the existential thriller Intacto (whose director went on to make the fabulous 28 Weeks Later), this is another chance to watch intense and charismatic leading man Leonardo Sbaraglia run through gorgeous through the dangerous and beautiful Spanish wilderness; not in the 'test your luck' sense, but more in a feral survival mode.  I'm wondering if talented and envelope pushing director Gonzalo López-Gallego will do the same.

Hopefully I've sold you on King of the Hill without really telling you anything.  To walk into this type of film blind is necessary for it to weave its determined spell.  Do not go onto the internets looking for a trailer (or god forbid a review that drops a bomb of a spoiler).  Come out Thursday, January 29th for this sly suckerpunch from Spain.