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Hi-Fear (2022) Review

Hi-Fear is the final instalment of the trilogy that started in 2013 with Hi-8 and was followed in 2018 by Hi-Death. These anthologies have been tributes to the glory days of shot-on-video horror and were made by many of the pioneers of that movement. This time out, the framing segment “What Are You Afraid Of?”, written and directed by Brad Sykes (Plaguers, Camp Blood) from a story by Brad and Josephina Sykes introduces us to Natalie (Kristin Lorenz, Bliss, 8 Days to Hell), an artist tasked with creating the splash pages for four tales of horror for the comic Hi-Fear.

Hi-Fear’s first story, “Losing It At The Devil’s Whorehouse” is from Todd Sheets (Final Caller, House of Forbidden Secrets) and I actually reviewed it a couple of years ago, you can read that here. The plot involves two guys who take their reluctant friend to the title establishment. But with a staff that includes Aleister Crowley (Jack McCord, Xenophobia, Captives) and Jezabel (Dilynn Fawn Harvey, Clownado, Backwoods Bubba) they’re going to be losing more than just their virginity.

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This held up well to a second viewing, with loads of gore, slime and plenty of 80s-style jokes about teen boys and brothels. Not to mention some women who would tempt any young man, even if the price is their soul.

Tim Ritter (Sharks of the Corn, Killing Spree) provides the second segment “When the Shadows Come Alive” a tale of a televangelist (Todd Martin, It Lives in the Attic, Deadly Dares: Truth or Dare Part IV) who kills his unfaithful wife and with the help of Officer Grantham (Trish Erickson-Martin, Earth Girls are Sleazy, The Red Resurrection) plans to escape justice. But a family of forest-dwelling cannibals may do what the law can’t.

This is vintage Ritter, light on plot but with a few unexpected twists. And plenty of random victims meeting a bloody end to make sure there’s a high body count. And that will appeal to those like myself who remember Truth or Dare, Creep, etc. What didn’t appeal to me however was the heavy use of digital film damage effects to give it a grindhouse look.

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For the third segment, Hi-Fear gives us Anthony Catanese’s (Girls Just Wanna Have Blood, Sodomaniac) “The Streets Are Watching”. Everybody has a different story about how Krazy Killer Karl (Brandon E. Brooks, Room 9, Swamp Zombies 2) got the way he is and ended up on the streets. But Chud (Leila Jean Davis, Road Rage, The Way of Glass) is sure he’s going to live up to his name tonight.

This was the weakest of Hi-Fear’s segments. The jumpy camera work and discordant jazz score combined to give me a headache. Even worse, the plot is pretty much non-existent and you can see the end coming a mile away.

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The fourth and final segment “Day Out of Days”, like the wraparound, is directed by Brad Sykes but this time it was co-written with Josephina Sykes. Out at a film’s remote location Taylor (P.J. Brescia, Single AF, Olden Times), Laura (Ingrid Dittmeier Hansen), and Alexis (Julie Anne Prescott, Zombi VIII: Urban Decay, Axed to Pieces) find themselves facing an unearthly invasion.

With a plot that seems inspired by the Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing film Night of the Big Heat crossed with Bill Rebane’s Invasion from Inner Earth, it’s more of a throwback to the B movies from before the SOV era. It’s a fun throwback to Saturday afternoon TV “Creature Features” and a marked improvement from the previous segment.

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“What Are You Afraid Of?” wraps Hi-Fear up on a somewhat expected note and with a cameo by Los Angeles landmark Dark Delicacies.

With three solid segments out of four and a good wraparound, I thought Hi-Fear was a great little anthology. I also know however that the films it harkens back to are an acquired taste, especially for those who don’t remember the originals. But for those of us who remember them fondly, this is a great way to spend a couple of hours.

Hi-Fear will be released later this year by Wild Eye although the exact date hasn’t been announced. You can keep an eye on the film’s Facebook page for an announcement of a release date or a proper trailer. And if you need something to watch while you wait for Hi-Fear’s release, FilmTagger has some suggestions.

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