12th Jun2019

‘Hi-Death’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Julia Vally, Todd Sheets, Fabiana Formica, Kate Durocher, Dilynn Fawn Harvey, Jensen Jacobs, Renee Galarza, Jay Sosnicki, Antwoine Steele, Todd Martin, Kristen Adams, Thomas Kindler, Billy Nicholson, Eve Smith, Mike Gordon | Written by Anthony Catanese, Amanda Payton, Tim Ritter, Todd Sheets, Brad Sykes, Josephina Sykes | Directed by Anthony Catanese, Amanda Payton, Tim Ritter, Todd Sheets, Brad Sykes

HiDeath_KeyArt

I’m a longtime fan of horror anthology films. I think it goes back to my love of short fiction, something I still really love to this day, and being able to get a snapshot of a story, a quick, often deliberate, sometimes hectic, slice of the chosen genre. Horror is a genre I’ve had a extended love affair with, and so mixing those two things together is a big plus for me. Released by Wild Eye Releasing, Hi-Death brings five new stories with it, each one different in tone, style and, of course, plot. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this going in, but I did have a great deal of fun with it.

“Terror Comes Into Focus” is the tagline of this release, playing on the hi-def thing, and the whole anthology really does look crisp. Death Has a Conscience, Dealers of Death, Night Drop, Cold Read and The Muse feature a variety veteran and emerging filmmakers, and a varied and deep cast, and I was impressed with the overall layout and production of this. I’m a big fan of movies like Creepshow and have an appreciation of modern anthologies such as VHS, and I thought Hi-Death did the genre proud with a mixture of comical, creepy, gory and weird short films. Even with the HD concept and look of this, it still has that throwback feel, in both sound and imagery, and it’s shot-on-video low-budget style is something I personally enjoy when it’s done well. There are some tremendous and ambitious low-budget horror filmmakers out there, from the likes of Chris Seaver, to Todd Sheets, who directs The Muse. A veteran creator of over 45 films, he ends this anthology with a big ole bang of entertainment.

Each of the five films has plenty going for it. If you’re new to the low-budget SOV horror film then it may take you a while to adapt your palette to what you’re seeing, but if you let the film entertain you, and realise just how creative and fresh it can be, then you should certainly find plenty to enjoy. I know people who flat-out won’t give the ultra-low budget stuff a try, seeing performances that a touch on the amateur side, and effects that aren’t on the level of a higher budget picture, but I think it’s a real shame, considering the sheer amount of amazing low or no budget movies I’ve been witness to over the years.

Death Has a Conscience follows Erin, a girl who, through some poor decisions regarding drugs at a night-club, winds up in a motel with no clue how she got there. Things don’t perk up much for her there, and that’s putting it mildly. The trippy delirious sequences, lighting and direction here, from Anthony Catanese, is top notch.

We move on to Dealers of Death, directed by Tim Ritter, a grisly tale of murder memorabilia and the danger of collecting it, as a character who calls himself the Switchblade Bandit attempts to feed his hunger for all things, erm… murdery. Things don’t go exactly to plan for him though, when he steals something from the wrong dude. Sex, celluloid and strange sound design, this was a cool concept and while it really didn’t impress me as much as the opening story (I’d probably say it’s the weakest of the five films), I still thought it worked well and kept things flowing nicely as we progressed towards the third tale of the set.

Night Drop follows, the Amanda Payton directed entry that takes place in a DVD rental store. I love this location when it comes to film, and we witness a plot of haunted DVD’s that features some really cool visuals and sound, managing to be both unsettling and a tad gross. Using the found-footage, mysterious tape concept, it does what it wants to do well. I enjoyed this. It was a more serious toned entry, which I was happy to see in here.

Cold Read is the forth story from Brad Sykes. A desperate actress is on an audition in Hollywood and is forced into a terrifying situation of reluctant performance. It’s tense, dark and well-acted, and a strong addition to Hi-Death for sure.

We finish the anthology with Todd Sheets’ The Muse. A tale of ancient evil, it creates tension as a dark, charismatic evil, with titular name of The Muse, torments his victims. One of the more bizarre and unnerving films of the five, if not the most bizarre and unnerving. Sheets brings the horror tour to a climax in a solid manner. The closing moments are a lot of fun to watch.

Despite some sound issues, a few slow parts and the odd off-putting visual or performance, Hi-Death is a low-budget anthology that does what it says on the tin. It’s entertaining, charming, bloody, weird and most importantly, fun. Hi-Death is Hi-Quality low-budget horror with plenty to say. The directors and writers create some inventive and intriguing stuff here, and while it won’t be for everyone, I certainly think that those used to this type of film, or those willing to be, will get a kick out of it.

Hi-Death is out now on disc, digital and ‘limited edition VHS’ from Wild Eye Releasing.

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