Wednesday, January 28, 2015

HI-8: Horror Independent Eight


Hi-8 is an anthology film that is a homage of sorts to the shot on video classics of yesteryear. This underground answer to V/H/S features eight shorts from Tim Ritter, Marcus Koch, Tony Masiello, Ron Bonk, Chris Seaver, Todd Sheets, Donald Farmer and Brad Sykes. Since the announcement of this anthology I've been extremely pumped. Being a huge fan of the SOV horror classics myself immediately after seeing the list of filmmakers I had a fangasm (luckily blood-free).

The first short is "Switchblade Insane" directed by Tim Ritter (Truth or Dare, Killing Spree). Ritter's short starts this flick off right with one of the most ambitious stories of the bunch. A housewife who believes everything about her relationship is fairly normal comes to the realization that her husband is the serial rapist/murderer she keeps hearing about on the news. She follows him to one of his rituals with gun in hand. She's fully prepared to end it all until she sees his victim laid out and prepared for carving. Ritter manages to come up with a nice cohesive twist within his short stretch of runtime. "Switchblade Insane" proves to be one of the sleaziest of the bunch as well. Next up is "A Very Bad Situation" directed by Marcus Koch (100 Tears, ROT). An insane meteor shower has turned society upside down and we get to experience it in the claustrophobic environment of a garage. This segment features a tiny cast with a big amount of tension. This one flies by and goes out with an awesome face splitting bang. This is one that you just have to see. Very straightforward and well done. It delivers all the goods I've come to expect from Koch over the years.

"The Tape" is the third short and the directorial debut of Tony Masiello. I was unsure what to think of this one given that I'm not at all familiar with Masiello. Luckily this ends up being one of the best sections of the whole film. As a rabid fan Masiello really captures that love for SOV horror. An employee at a closing video rental store manages to snag an old VHS copy of an unreleased flick called "Bloodgasm". He goes home and pops it in the trusty VCR and is mesmerized by what he is seeing. So much so that he fucks his girlfriend without ever taking his eyes off of the hyper realistic gore. He soon decides that he must release the film. After trying to contact the cast he comes up empty handed until he finally reaches the actor who played the killer. Little does he know he may be getting himself into a shitstorm that he didn't anticipate.

Then we have "Gang Them Style", a hilarious romp directed by Ron Bonk (City of the Vampires, The Vicious Sweet). This segment had me laughing my ass off from start to finish. We're introduced to our 80's style badass Mongoose right out of the gate as he busts into a old folk's home to save his grandma. A zombie outbreak is at hand and Mongoose now has to save all of the senior citizens. Unfortunately for our hero the task of getting everyone to the van ten feet away may be too much to handle. This short KICKS ASS. It features so many great one liners with perfect delivery in such a short amount of time. Now the strangest of the bunch "Genre Bending" directed by Chris Seaver (I Spit Chew On Your Grave, Terror At Blood Fart Lake). This segment follows a woman getting stalked constantly by a local creeper. The stalker gets closer and closer in hilarious fashion (at one point he even appears between her legs). The short takes a turn when the stalker sneaks up on the woman while she's doing dishes. This one will definitely not be for everyone as it tries to put a humorous spin on rape. Not all the jokes here worked for me but it got a few laughs throughout.

The sixth short is "The Request" directed by Todd Sheets (Dead Things, Violent New Breed). Sheets shot the film in the radio station he uses for his Night Watch radio-show. The tale is of a radio host who is literally being haunted by his past. This short is easily the most traditional of the eight featured. "The Request" is a fairly subtle horror tale that would fit right in with Creepshow or the classic horror anthology shows of the past. Number seven is "Thicker Than Water" directed by Donald Farmer (Savage Vengeance, Scream Dream). It kicks off with a man trying to calm down his significant other. Crazy bitch would be an understatement here. He then discovers that she's pregnant and she leads him to the garage for a little surprise. She has his ex-girlfriend tied up and covered in blood and is ready to put an end to his past. The victim is played by Vanessa Nocera (Scaremaker, Wooden Stake), the metalhead in me had to mention this. Complete with Draino chugging this one delivers the goods.

The final short is "The Scout" directed by Brad Sykes (The Pact, Death Factory). Sykes conceived the idea for Hi-8 and also directed the wraparound along with this story. I've been a fan of all the Sykes films I've seen thus far but this short threw me for a loop. It follows a director and actress scouting for locations in the desert. After the car breaks down the sassy actress decides to go off on her own to find the road. She comes back and the director is gone. After finding the camcorder she discovers something very strange on the tape. I honestly just didn't really dig the ending of this one. I understand the idea of keeping the end open for an open interpretation, but throwing something nonsensical in with no explanation just didn't sit well with me in terms of how it meshed with the other shorts. On the other hand though I enjoyed the wraparound Sykes did much more. It really captures the essence of low budget filmmaking and takes a turn for the worst when the no budget filmmakers get a nice dose of real life horror.

Overall Hi-8 delivers the good stuff. You get eight great indie horror directors hitting you from eight different angles. The styles vary greatly from one story to the next. I was planning to accompany this review with a favorite to least favorite list of the shorts but in the end that proves to be more and more difficult the more I think about it. The shorts are all excellent for completely different reasons. In terms of humor "Gang Them Style" definitely takes the cake, but if I were to go with most well made I'd probably say "The Request" edged out the others. It's safe to say that "The Scout" and "Genre Bending" were the weakest for me but they weren't really bad by any means. All eight tales here blend together to create an extremely entertaining anthology and that's all that really matters in the end. Highly recommend this one for horror fans all across the board. Even those not into SOV or indie horror in general should be able to find something of value here. A fun movie is a fun movie, and there's no denying that regardless of your perspective. GET IT! I've got my fingers crossed for Hi-8 Part 2 with McBride getting in on the action!

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