On the heals of my review for excellent “Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 1,” the next review had to be another anthology. There was a must-watch horror short attitude swirling in the cold air. Out of everything that lies on the review docket, by chance “HI-8 (Horror Independent Eight) was next on the chopping block and already the drool slithered itself from the corner’s of my horror-hungry mouth. “HI-8” brings together the best-of-the-best shot on video horror directors of the last three decades and where going back to your roots is not so much a challenge for the eight horror-short directors, but rather a natural like riding a bike scenario.
0: “No Budget Films Present…” by Brad Sykes
The anthology begins with a wrap around short entitled “No Budget Films Present…” and starts off innocent enough with three young and inspired horror filmmakers creating a slasher picture of a female jogger being terrorized by a masked killer. The short weaves in and out between the other shorts and during the intermediate of the story a terrifying myth is laid out about a face-ripping fiend who stalks the very location where they’re shooting their movie. By the end, you can only imagine the fates of our young filmmakers.
“No Budget Films Presents…” is directed by Brad Sykes who happens to also a co=producer of “HI-8.” The short isn’t the campiness of eight and is a bit hard to follow due to the choppiness of the in-and-out story telling between other shorts, but the story is still very solid and the ending is nothing short of a surprise. With great creature effects and a use of a video camera, this innocent story turns deadly and chilling real quick.
1: “Switchblade Insane” by Tim Ritter
“Switchblade Insane” follows the marital complications between a killer, the Switchblade Butcher, and his wife. The Switchblade Butcher feels the need to kidnap, rape, and murder his female victims and when his wife confronts his ghastly actions at gun point and caught red handed, he persuades her to join in his blood-letting ecstasy. Her lust for blood was just as thirsty as his and brought their relationship to new heights. As the story of the Switchblade Butcher is being told by the wife, the lines become blurred between killer and wife and the ending provides a better than M. Night Shyamalan twist!
Director Tim Ritter is one of my all time favorite shot on video directors. “Truth or Dare? A Critical Mass” is one my personal favorite films and to see his name as one of the directors gave me goosebumps. Ritter doesn’t disappoint bring out his A game witi “Switchblade Insane.” The story is freshly twisted and the laid out perfectly frame by frame to leave a lasting impression with no too much gore to try and ingest.
2: “A Very Bad Situation” by Marcus Koch
A handful of desparate survivors steadfast in a cramp and tight-knit garage after a exotic meteor-shower slowly turns humans into hideous flesh-eating monstrous transformations. Suspicions run rampant, weapons are drawn against one another, and nobody trusts the other as anybody could be infected in this John Carpenter-esque “The Thing” type horror short.
As aforementioned, Carpenter had already done this similar scenario in the arctic with a group of station inhabits who are imitated precisely by an alien being. The first minute, minute and half, is a bunch of stock footage of people in the masses reaping havoc and violence, but it’s the end of the short that will get your heart racing when the creature unveils itself to the group in a very practical and gross special effects way.
3: “The Tape” by Tony Masiello
An obsolete VHS rental store is shutting the doors for good and store clerk Tim is able to take one of the VHS tapes home with him as part of a severance package type deal. He pops in the tape to find that it’s an unfinished, self-taped film entitled Bloodgasm. Just as the name suggest, Bloodgasm is a more gory and colorful version of the tape in “The Ring.” Tim becomes engrossed to the point where raunchy sex with his girlfriend is nearly non-existent and can’t sway his attention away from the screen. His obsession is so strong that he researches the tape and finds the director who wishes to finish (off) the film with Tim and his girlfriend.
“The Tape” will have your entrails running for dear life. The tape is nothing but shock and gore and I get why Tim loves it due to it’s realistic effect. This is another short that deserves kudos for the awesome twist ending. Though the events are rather rushed, Masiello is able to squeeze everything to provide a well coherent, gut wrenching, bloody festive screening.
4: “Gang Them Style” by Ron Bonk
A zombie breakout ensues. One man decides to break into a nursing home to save his Nana. He takes on more than he can chew as Nana brings with her a handful of other nursing home residents. The long 10 foot walk between the exit doors and the minivan is the dangerous journey the survivors must make in order to survive the ordeal.
By far the campiest short of the all, “Gang Them Style” incorporates and pays homage to the indie horror icons and classics especially such with John Carpenter, names of the characters from “The Thing” are reused for some the cast in “Gang Them Style” and some of a few taglines made in the dialogue as well; the “kick ass and chew bubble gum” comes to mind. The short doesn’t take itself serious and does a great job on homing in on the 80’s style in every way – soundtrack, camera angles, clothing, acting, effects, zombie makeup, etc.
5: “Genre Bending” by Chris Seaver
A curvy young woman has gained a couple of creepy, sleazy stalker that she may or may not be oblivious to the fact. Once all the characters come into play, “Genre Bending” is true to the title with a a back and forth game between genre and gender.
“Genre Bending” is the least horrific film of all the shorts and plays out more like a dark comedy. The short does speak upon the terms of gender, sexism, race, and voyeurism. Even though each film is only 8 to 10 minutes long, this short feels a bit overplayed and does over stay its welcome.
6: “Thicker Than Water” by Donald Farmer
Emily’s jealousy and paranoia wigs out her boyfriend Ted with accusations that he’s fooling around with ex-girlfriend Lauren. After Ted calms down Emily’s suspicions, She reveals reveals that she’s pregnant. But Emily isn’t quite convinced of Ted’s assurance; she wants to be completely sure so she wants Ted’s to rid of his previous relationship and takes him into the back room where Lauren sits tied up. Will Ted cut ties with Lauren for good by overseeing her demise?
Donald Farmer is the quintessential SOV director; one of the legends much in the same class as Tim Ritter. His entry is brutal and unapologetic pitting current life agains’t the past. The drastic measures Lauren takes is not fantastic or far from the truth as many will do anything for love or for a child. “Thicker Than Water” is not necessarily fresh script, but certainly visceral and emotional.
7: “The Scout” by Brad Sykes
Director Adrian is scouting the desert for the perfect location for his next film and tagging along is Madison, an aspiring actress. When their car breaks down by a run down structure, Madison has a few choice words for Adrian and embarks on her own back to town as she is already late for potential acting gig. When she becomes lost, she circles back and can’t locate Adrian. Instead, she locates his camera and is shocked by the found footage.
“The Scout” is a bit more spellbinding and greatly introducing more blood than his wrap around short “No Budget Films Presents…” The sheer mystery of the camera’s ability to see into the future could have been explored a little more instead near the end of the short, but this provides a mysterious and supernatural tidbit that leaves open the chilling story.
8: “The Request” by Todd Sheets
A late night radio DJ is being phone stalked when counting down the top music hits. The calls are mysterious, menacing, and spooky giving a tingle down the DJ’s spine. He thinks a prank is being played on his good nature, but the DJ has a secret – a secret that haunts him and, eventually, catches up with him even from the grave.
Todd Sheets Lives! The legendary SOV director stirs in his own gruesome material into a story that eerily resembles a Stephen King story. The film speaks about the ultimate betrayal and proves that karma is a bitch. Timing of the story is enough to keep your attention quenched and the ending will eat your heart out!
“Hi-8” brings the beloved 80’s and 90’s analog horror back to the small screen giving future generations only a small taste of CGI-less horror. The nostalgia for this review alone is over-stimulating. Greats like Todd Sheets, Tim Ritter, and Brad Sykes are not a dying breed, but rather an underlying threat to mainstream horror, lying and waiting for tween horror acolytes to drop dead and have SOV rise from the tomb once again. Check out this Wild Eye Releasing DVD that is already out on shelves ready to be picked up, watched, and loved.