I remember as a young child getting my first VCR. Compared to what I have at my disposal now, a VCR doesn’t seem like much, but it really opened a whole new world for me. I wasn’t old enough to drive, but I was old enough to rent movies on VHS. I remember my mother taking me to the video store and let me picking out what I wanted. I looked for the best covers and grabbed what I could. I suppose letting an easily-influenced 11 year old watch horror wasn’t the best parenting move, but This is where my love of horror began. Watching Hi-8 took me back to those childhood memories and made me want to watch the VHS version (which you can get here) of this movie and relive my youth. That being said, HI-8 is not only a great throwback to the glory days of VHS, but for the most part, a great movie all around.
Hi-8 is an anthology of eight horror films that were shot on Hi-8 and similar video formats. It opens like an old videocassette that was just popped into a player, with lines across the screen, and then a jumpy warning: “The following motion picture is not intended for young eyes” and so on, setting up the tone right from the start.
The eight shorts vary in quality, with the best three being “The Tape,” “Gang Them Style” and “The Scout.” Of all of these, “Gang Them Style” is the best and could easily be made into a horror feature film (someone make this happen!).
“The Tape” is directed Tony Masiello and begins with two guys reminiscing about the old days of VHS as it appears the store they’re in is shutting down. One of the guys (Tim) takes home a box of old VHS tapes and finds Bloodgasm.
Directed by Ron Bonk, “Gang Them Style” focuses on R.J. (Wes Reid) as he goes to see his nana who is in a nursing home while zombies are attacking people outside. R.J. is somewhat of a faux-tough guy who tries to rescue all the old folks. The acting is so bad and cheesy that it’s good (if you’re a fan of these types of movies, you know what I mean). The best part of this movie is when R.J. tries to help all the old folks make a quick get away and jump in a van. He takes off and the camera pans back to all the old folks walking EXTREMELY slow and the zombies even slower. He makes a lot of unnecessary tactical hero-type moves to get back to them and help guide them to safety. There are nods to Star Wars, They Live, and Night of the Living Dead in the script as well. Pretty damn genius for such a short.
The DVD includes a commentary track by writer/director/producer Brad Sykes and producer Josephina Sykes. They discuss the origins of the project (including the title), and the parameters, as well as giving information on each of the filmmakers. The one weakness of “The Tape” is the video store set, and they do discuss the reasons behind that. Brad talks about shooting the wraparound segment in Griffith Park in the area where the Independent Shakespeare Company performs in the summer. What’s cool is that it was attending Shakespeare performances that introduced him to that location. And he actually uses one of the Independent Shakespeare Company’s members for a role in that segment (if you live in L.A., you likely enjoyed André Martin as Tranio in this year’s production of The Taming Of The Shrew).
The DVD also includes The 8 Simple Rules Of Hi-8, a featurette on the making of the film. This is basically interviews with producer/director Brad Sykes and producer Josephina Sykes. They talk about how the project came about, and talk about each of the directors involved in this project. The special features also include a teaser trailer, a photo gallery, and three short promotional clips.