|Horror, Science Fiction
Wild Eye Releasing
December 16th, 2014
Release length: 1:38:00
Like many an anthology release, HI-8 is a set of varying stories within a style that are all wrapped around one specific tale. Here that continuing short is is about three aspiring young film makers: Travis (Paul K.), Brett (Baker Chase), and Andrea (Danielle Nicole Rosario). Armed with a small hand-held camcorder, the trio begins filming what appears to be an indie slasher flick. Of course, there are problems that pop up along the way, such as a legend that plagues the area they decide to shoot in, not to mentio the discovery of a homeless man that lends a hint of tension from that point on. Sadly, that’s really the only time you feel like something can happen, as most outcomes end up being surprisingly harmless, save for the end.
Unfortunately, that overlapping story line isn’t at all reflected in the other short stories presented. This becomes pretty obvious right from the start with “Switchblade Insane” by Tim Ritter (Killing Spree, Wicked Games). This depicts a housewife Camille Rain ristine Renee Farley, The Creepy Doll) who discovers her husband David (Ford Windstar, Uncle Daddy) is a murderer, narrating it all through a series of flashbacks. Eventually she confronts him about it, and rather quickly joins him until she is betrayed and decides to keep her husband’s legacy alive. It plays into the amateur film making aspect of the aforementioned running tale since it seems as though she is shooting some of this herself, as if a brief documentary. But then there’s the more aptly suited “The Scout” by Brad Sykes (Goth, Blood Camp). This one follows a low-budget producer (Mark Sadr, You’re King of WeirdB But I Like It) and an actress (Alexis Codding, Voodoo) who are looking over a location he intends to use for his next film. But, of course, his car breaks down. As he talks about the location and what it means to him, the two wander off and get separated until the actress happens upon his camera and finds footage shot that ends up foreshadowing her fate.
Oddly enough, the most memorable tales are not Horror, but rather Science Fiction. “A Very Bad Situation” by Marcus Koch (Sinners and Saints, The Theatre Bizarre) pays respects to dark Outer Limits style of story telling. Meteors are falling from the sky, causing people to turn into monsters. A small group of survivors are held up in a garage and let another in, who then insists on shooting the one girl as she may be infected, even though it might be an asthma attack. The visual effects here are astounding, there’s a great deal of atmosphere, and the nightmare outside is built up fast enough to get an idea of the circumstances they face. But then there’s the polar opposite by Ron Bonk called “Gang Them Style”. RJ “Mongoose” MacReady (Wes Reid, Clay) finds himself in the middle of a vampire invasion, racing to the old-folks home his mother resides in. From here it’s one stereotypical joke after another, such as his loud mouthed partner being attacked, him having to save all the residents, and the van being parked too far away for them to reach just to name a few.
Unfortunately, there are a few that end up rather dull and predictable. “The Request” by Todd Sheets (Zombie Bloodbath, Spirits) is good for what it is, but nothing all that special. In a very Stephen King style scenario, late night radio DJ Magic Matt West (Brad Westmar, House of Forbidden Secrets) is taking requests until he starts receiving messages from someone long ago. They never stop, eventually leading to the discovery of just what happened to a past love named Lillian (Nicole Santorella, House of Forbidden Secrets), leading to a twist paranormal ending you see coming the moment the phone rings for the first time. Really, the only good thing going for it is how well it’s shot, much like the deranged insecurities of the short “Thicker Than Water” from Donald Farmer (Compelling Evidence, An Erotic Vampire in Paris). Ted (Mike Malloy, Look Out! It’s Going to Blow!) is watching a movie that his girlfriend Emily (Alaine Huntington, Cool as Hell) is upset by. Her insecurities start to emere, leading to what seems to be another argument between the two, and revealing she has tied his ex up in the other room. To prove his love he has to kill her, leading to an inner struggle, and further derangement.
While there’s plenty of well established underground directors on this release, this also marks a debut for one. “The Tape” by visual effects expert turned director Tony Masiello (The Amazing Spider-Man, Top Gun), sadly, falls into the previous category of quality. The tale of a video store closing leads Tim Strauber (Travis Hoecker) to discover a lost “shot on video” that isn’t finished. What follows is his quest to not only get it distributed, but also find out why it wasn’t finished. Admittedly, this one is done very well, showing how one man’s infatuation becomes a perverse obsession, but the ending just leaves you wishing they did more with an otherwise stellar set-up.
As far as the overall production values go, they are diverse as the film makers themselves. A lot of the stories shot outdoors during the day have plenty of exposure issues from the sunlight, though a few manage to keep that relatively under control, such as during “Switchblade Romance”. The better looking ones are those shot in areas a bit dimmer, or closer to dusk. This is where “The Request” excels. The intimate lighting of the radio station makes the visuals a little more crisp overall, though it could also be the quality of the equipment being used compared to the others. “A Very Bad Situation”, however, is the polar opposite. The lack of light other than a battery operated lantern plays havoc, causing a great deal of static on the screen. It does, however, mask any problems with the creature reveal at the end, making the practical effects and puppetry seem even more realistic, and the impact far more believable.
In the end, HI-8‘s quality is smoewhat varied, but even at its worst the cast and crew manage to keep you entertained. None of these tales really feel forced or rushed, but they do fit snuggly within the old “shot on video” approach. If you’re a fan of underground film making, chances are good you are already familiar with these directors and their work. If not, be prepared to start searching for some of these cast and crew member’s other releases. Unlike some of the more popular anthologies coming out today, you need to consider HI-8 more as a means of exposure than anything else, equal to a short split EP or seven-inch vinyl that reaches out beyond one specific style or genre. If you can make this distinction, then you’ll walk out not only with knowledge of where to look and who specifically to look for the next time you want to catch a good movie, but also a desire to go back and revisit this collection. It’s just unfortunate the overlapping tale isn’t wound into the other eight stories present.
|Overall Score: 7/10