We mentioned Hi-Death back in February. Now the way to long in the making follow-up to 2013’s Hi-8 is finally here. Like the first film, it’s an anthology film whose segments pay tribute to the glory days of shot on video horror. Both the episodes’ style and, in several cases the filmmakers themselves, are a nod to the old school. Of the six segments, (five stories plus a wraparound), four are directed by filmmakers whose credits reach back to the 80s and 90s.
We start, obviously, with the wraparound, “Terror Tour” written and directed by Brad Sykes (Camp Blood, Plaguers). Two young ladies decide to take a creepy tour of LA. Which sets up the film’s other segments.
First up is newcomer Anthony Catanese’s (Sodomaniac) “Death Has a Conscience”. Erin (Jensen Jacobs) Has been binging on a new drug called Spit. Now as she lies sleeping it off in a shitty hotel room the Grim Reaper comes to call. And talk about how rough his job is but how he still enjoys doing it.
Tim Ritter (Killing Spree, I Dared You! Truth or Dare Part 5) supplies the next segment, “Dealers of Death”. Marty (Todd Martin) has a thing for serial killer memorabilia and snuff films. But he never thought he’d get to star in one.
“Night Drop” from the other new face, Amanda Payton, is next. It’s a tale of strange events at a Blockbuster style video store after closing time. It features some distinctly disturbing imagery and a vaguely Lovecraftian premise.
They’re every actress’s nightmare, but the audition in “Cold Read” is its own kind of hell for Julianna Morris (Fabiana Formica, Cemetery Man). Brad Sykes again directs, this time from a script co-written with his wife Josephina. This is a much more psychological piece than the other segments.
The final story, “The Muse” is from Todd Sheets (Dreaming Purple Neon, Bonehill Road) ventures back into the realm of Lovecraft. Bearing a similarity to his story Pickman’s Models it involves a painter (Nick Randol), a call girl (Dilynn Fawn Harvey, Clownado, Final Caller) and a demon.
And then it’s it’s back to the wraparound to bring Hi-Death to its conclusion.
As with any anthology, some segments are better than others. Thankful none of the segments in Hi-Death are actually bad. The wraparound is fairly weak, but as with most anthologies, that’s a given.
“Death Has a Conscience” and “Dealers of Death” had me a little worried. They’re watchable but don’t really pop out at you. I’m not familiar with Catanese’s work, and this does have some nice visuals but that’s about it. Ritter I know can do better, this was pretty much going through the motions for him.
“Night Drop” though makes up for the slow start. A creepy atmosphere and some really gross footage on the mysterious DVD. There’s a couple of scenes that actually looked real like they were surgical footage, though I’m sure they were effects. This is only Payton’s third film, all of them shorts. I’m curious to see more from her.
The horrors of the mind are played out “Cold Read” and it’s a solid take on a familiar theme. A harsh director, a troubled performer and blurring lines between reality and performance. It’s mostly a psychological piece up until the end when it gets a bit bloody.
I had my worries about the final segment of Hi-Death, “The Muse” from Todd Sheets. I’d seen a couple of publicity photos that were pretty spoilerish. I shouldn’t have worried, the story has enough surprises to survive it. There’s some very nicely done splatter and Dilynn Fawn Harvey topless is always a teat, I mean treat. I do wish she’d kept her red hair from Clownado though.
The wrap up for the wraparound is OK but a letdown after what we just saw.
Hi-Death is one of the better anthologies to come out recently, even it’s “worst” segments are watchable. Unlike many that have at least one story that demands the use use of fast forward. And if you’re nostalgic for some practical splatter and retro storytelling you’ll get plenty of that as well.
Wild Eye Releasing will release Hi-Death on disc, digital and limited edition VHS on June 10. You can check its Facebook page for updates.