I hadn’t heard of Hi-8 until I checked out upcoming anthology Hi-Death, but I liked enough of what I saw in the follow-up to go back and check out the first one. And since I already blogged about Horror Hotel, I felt OCD obligated to watch the sequel. So let’s take a look at the types of tales you get from each.
It was hard not to judge this one based on the quality of the sequel since I saw that one first and this one just doesn’t measure up, but I’ll try to be objective. Hi-8 was apparently intentionally shot on dated equipment to give it that genuine 80s look. That approach definitely serves some stories better than others.
The 80s synth music and VHS static effect during the opening credits are a cool touch, and it helps that the film is presented in full screen, but watching it on a wide flat screen really doesn’t capture the true essence of old school tube TVs.
The wraparound is about kids shooting a slasher out in the wilderness The various segments of the wraparound in between stories don’t add much, but the final pay off closing the film is possibly one of its best horror moments. Now onto the stories:
1st story – since I watched the “Hi” films out of order, I learned that a story in the second film is a sequel to this one, as they both revolve around a switchblade killer. This tale is mostly just a gory slice n dice job performed on a victim, and not much different than the tale in the follow-up.
2nd story – the film quality is seriously rough in this one, but it works. The brief story has a group of survivors holed up in a garage after some sort of invasion following a meteor hitting earth. What invaded is revealed with kick ass practical effects.
3rd story – this one feels cheap, but I appreciate the video store theme (as always). A videos store clerk comes across some snuff films…and then meets the killer who made them.
4th story – totally going for the cheesy 80s vibe, this is a fun and goofy one about a dude dressed like the Frog Brothers from The Lost Boys trying to save a bunch of old folks during a zombie outbreak.
5th story – this is total exploitation camp about a plus size woman being stalked by a creep in a Gilligan hat. Absurd and silly, it has a good, trashy twist, but it doesn’t quite have the same tone as the rest of the tales.
6th story – A familiar tale of a grieving lover getting a visit from the dead, this one suffers from really poor makeup effects.
7th story – another cheap one that looks like it’s shot on home video, this is a pretty generic love triangle revenge story.
8th story – probably the highest quality story in terms of visual appearance, this also has a good desolate desert horror feel as a filmmaker and his potential lead actress check out a dilapidated building he wants to use as a filming location. The tale is a little slow, but it delivers the most genuine horror anthology zinger ending.
Amazing 80s style synth music kicks things off once again in the sequel, so I was hoping I was in good hands when Hi-Death began (each story is handled by a different director). The wraparound has two girls on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where they find a flyer for a horror tour. Each location is showing a different movie…
1st story – after trying to get into a metal concert and then shooting up, a young woman is confronted by the grim reaper. This tale definitely kicks things off right, with an 80s look and feel, plus the grim reaper’s skull head costume looks great, reminding me of Tar Man’s movements in Return of the Living Dead.
2nd story – this is one of just a few stories I felt didn’t quite fit with the others in this film, both in tone and quality. It’s a psychosexual tale of a couple that gets off on the details of the switchblade serial killer’s work from the first movie. It’s gory and sleazy, and looks like a cheap, straight-to-video flick of the 80s.
3rd story – this one is about a dude working late at a video store. Yes! Another video store story. An unmarked DVD is returned through the drop box, so he watches it. The visuals and snippets in the video are deliciously fucked up, putting The Ring video to shame. Plus, there’s a scare pay off in the video store that I think captures the spirit of anthologies like Creepshow nicely.
4th story – another one that I feel just doesn’t flow with the vibe of the other tales here (because the majority of them feature some sort of demonic or supernatural creature) and also looks low budget, this one is about a young actress whose audition goes wrong.
5th story – this final tale is about an artist whose work is dictated by the demands of a demonic presence.
Fantastically gritty, sleazy, and nasty, it ends things strong.
The wraparound conclusion sticks with the tone of the three shorts I preferred in this movie, with the two girls getting separated and one of them ending up in a creepy cave.
RETURN TO HORROR HOTEL (2019)
As with the first Horror Hotel, there’s no wraparound here, but the common thread is that each tale takes place at a hotel. For me, two out of four were okay…
1st story – The opening tale caught my attention immediately thanks to what sounded like a horror lyrics version of a Lady Gaga track as muscle man hits the protein drinks. He is just one of several characters that have icky bed bug problems…
2nd story – a tightly produced, dark tale about two female friends fighting over an object that is supposed to make the wearer beautiful.
3rd story – eh. Not quite horror. This feels like an episode of Amazing Stories. A young bookstore clerk makes a delivery to a vet who doesn’t age as long as he stays locked in his hotel room.
4th story – two guys are in possession of Houdini’s hand and all hell breaks lose in this tale played for laughs. I didn’t laugh and I just expected much more from a story about someone obtaining Houdini’s hand.
As with the first Horror Hotel, although there’s good production value, the stories run too long before getting to the point, and most of them aren’t very horror at all.