HI-DEATH (2018)

Directed by: ,
Written by: ,
Starring: , ,

UK Release Date – TBC

I love to see a horror anthology, it’s one of my favourite things. Then again on the other hand I don’t like to see films that use mobile apps and online videos to tell a story, it’s one of my least favourite things. Does this compilation of zero budget shockers manage to bridge the gap between these two elements? It certainly doesn’t. In fact even without the slapped together bookend story there’s little to enjoy here because most of the stand-alone stories contained within are of a similarly low quality. Some are worse than others but outside of a single standout chapter I’m afraid this is mostly varying degrees of bad. It doesn’t have to be this way as something like Barbarous Mexico suggests, but this is a decidedly poor offering in a genre that is often a mixed bag by nature.

The opening and closing tale is called ‘Terror Tour’ and follows two girls on a tour of Hollywood. They wander through a lot of typical Los Angeles sights including the famous Walk of Fame. There’s also a lot of graffiti and mural street art shown to give the location some authentic grit. But all this really does is offer an early warning to the viewer; these are all names and faces from classic movies you could watch instead and this is your last chance to do so. The tour itself involves a list of locations and a series of short films, and the pair go around to each spot and watch the stories we will also be seeing. The premise feels mildly creative but the payoff is just a big fat nothing, wasting the choice of several famous locations.

The first segment, ‘Death Has a Conscience’, is about a drug addict going to various seedy looking venues to try and get a score. The idea and the setting has a certain type of heavy metal appeal as does the arrival of death himself. But it’s about as cheap looking as all the other stories presented here, and it also lacks any kind of memorable twist. Without any direct moral it’s just a short film with actors wearing Halloween masks. But while it’s not the only chapter to be filmed mostly in a hotel room it’s not the worst of the bunch. It’s not good mind you, but there was potential buried somewhere in this mixture of thrashing club goers and spooky visitors.

After this things take a turn for the worse in ‘Dealers of Death’ which has some of the least convincing acting and the most laughable editing choices. A kinky couple getting off to a macabre collection of police evidence room items is an intriguing scenario, but the execution is what makes it hit rock bottom. There are moments that feel almost self-aware in how weird they are including Movie Maker (or even PowerPoint) style transitions. A couple using yellow crime-scene tape to adorn their bedroom can’t totally serious can it? It’s difficult to say. Their conflict with a drug dealer who wears sunglasses indoors and permanently has an unlit cigarette in his mouth is also pretty confusing. Maybe it’s meant to be this bad, but maybe the makers are just this clueless.

However it at least has that bad-good vibe occasionally. The real bottom of the barrel is ‘Night Drop’ in which a clerk at a video rental store meets a sticky end after receiving a blank DVD in the overnight returns box. Found footage is one thing, but when the story isn’t set in the VHS era it’s unlikely that he would receive this sort of home movie. Did the powers of darkness burn a disc for him to see? Maybe I’m overthinking all of this. There’s a random homeless man at the door and a mystifying series of conversations with his boss, and then it just ends. To call this a story would be exaggerating and the conclusion makes as much sense as anything else here. It feels like one scene of a script stretched to ten minutes. Or a vague remake of ‘The Gas Station’ from Body Bags in which working a night shift actually made sense.

Things aren’t totally wasted however since ‘Cold Read’ actually has some strengths and includes the one bright spot in this whole dubious collection. A strung out theatre hostess is desperate to get an acting job, and finds herself at the mercy of an egomaniacal film maker. Her nuisance co-workers are not helping and neither is her prescription medicine. To make things worse the casting director seems to have screwed up the call sheets and the scenes for the day. The mood is tense but Juliana (Fabiana Formica) has the determination to push through. There are no attempts to have crazy horror lighting, and there are no migraine inducing edits. It’s all just strangely appropriate. The actors are actually compelling and it even has a twist ending, even though it’s rather blunt and feels rushed.

Last up is ‘The Muse’ which unfortunately brings this all back down to earth with a wet splat, as an artist sits alone in a motel trying to summon the ‘Elder Gods’. But to suggest this is Lovecraftian or Cronenberg-esque would be a gross oversimplification. There are some weird things going on in the room, as the story tries to depict the manifestations of an artist’s suffering. At least I think that’s the idea. He seems to be using a creative outlet to escape past traumas while his personal demon pushes him down a dark path. But cheap make-up effects and lousy performances mean these fleeting moments of intrigue are wasted. So is the hard work of whoever painted all the art since it’s actually pretty good. But this sums up the whole experience; an arduous, gruesome, and often inept slog that squanders any momentary glimpses of quality.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

About Mocata 120 Articles
A sucker for classic epics, 80s science fiction and fantasy kitsch, horror, action, animation, stop motion, world cinema, martial arts and all kinds of assorted stuff and nonsense. If you enjoy a bullet ballet, a good eye ball gag or a story about time travelling robots maybe we can be friends after all.

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