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Ben Nagy reviews Hi-Death, an anthology mutants are gonna enjoy

Hi-Death, the second anthology film put out by Nightfall Pictures, which has every necessary element that we Drive-In Mutants are in the game for.

While not perfect throughout, the three vital elements of drive-in cinema are present in this one

Jordan (Kristen Adams) looks for her pal Lexie, who has gone missing at the end of their Terror Tour, which serves as the interstitial story for Hi-Death. (Photos courtesy Nightfall Pictures)

Filmmakers take a big ol risk when they decide to do an anthology film.

Some of em end up being classics, spawn sequels and TV shows (hola, Creepshow and our pals over at Shudder).

Some of em, even though they were pretty damn good, get forgotten for whatever reason (I can’t be the only one who remembers Nightmares, the one with Lance Henriksen and Emilio Estevez which was long out of print and going for a bundle on eBay at one point).

Some of em are solid, but just slip a little bit below revered status (John Carpenter’s Body Bags was pretty fun, but obviously it’s going to be ranked in the middle of the pack of his body of work because this is the guy who put out The Thing, They Live, Prince of Darkness).

There’s been an anthology resurgence the past few years in indie horror with the VHS flicks and the ABCs of Death as two of the biggies – and Art the Clown, that killer clown of Terrifier fame, got his start as the connective tissue in an anthology as well.

But, as I said, when you get a bunch of creative folks together to make a movie, especially when it’s an anthology, you’re taking the risk that, well, one part isn’t as good as the others.

And that brings us to Hi-Death, the second anthology film put out by Nightfall Pictures, and it has every necessary element that we Drive-In Mutants are in the game for. It’s a follow-up to Hi-8, Horror Independent Eight, which I got from Joe Bob, but I haven’t reviewed yet because I have about 68 flicks to go through.

Anyway, Hi-Death has stuff in it that I didn’t know I had never seen before until I saw it in this flick. If Joe Bob gets to showing this on The Last Drive-In, we’re talking about six pages of totals.

The three Bs are represented throughout and there’s enough borrowing from solid classic elements (Demoni, Hannibal, The Ring) that we know the filmmakers are with us. Yes, we have blood. We have breasts, and we have beasts.

There are five stories in all plus the connecting scenario which is about these two women who are visiting Los Angeles for the first time and get handed a flier for something called a Terror Tour.

We don’t have Michele Soavi in a mask available to hand out tickets, but they get this paper, zap the QR code on it and away we go into the first of five segments that the two woman (one of them says she’s a horror junkie) watch.

Summarizing them: A woman who’s looking for a drug score barfs, watches cartoons and then is menaced by supernatural forces in a cursed hotel room. A collector of “murderabilia” steals from a drug dealer. A video store clerk encounters a mysterious flick while closing up. An actress snaps at an audition after running out of meds, and an artist is enslaved by a demonic muse to do her evil bidding.

Hey, it’s the Switchblade Bandit (Marty Lustig) from the second story segment “Dealers of Death.” Anyone else think looks like he ought to be banging a pair of coconuts together?

In the segments we get: vomit; demon leeches; a switchblade-wielding robber who dresses up like Patsy, King Arthur’s squire in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (see above), and listens to folks aardvark; a nice horror montage and a video demon that aardvarks a guy in half; a revenge tale that anyone who has ever had to audition for anything will appreciate; and an artist who broke bad worse than Walter White. All these had enough in em to keep this humble mutant reviewer entertained.

But that’s not to say this anthology did not have weak points. The second segment, “Dealers of Death,” was by far the weakest of the bunch, starting out with promise but then rambling on for way too long in the middle before leading up to a Hannibal-style payout at the conclusion. Also, the payoff for “Terror Tour” (the connective story) ended up being a bit mundane when compared with what had come before it. Some choices made in the sound design with vocal effects during key points toward the ends of the first and second segments also made it tough to make out what was going on. But since the movie runs only an hour, 40 minutes, wait your way through the flaws because there’s better stuff ahead. Speaking of…

  • Best Emoting for a Dude with No Face: Craig Kelly’s portrayal of Death where he complains about having to kill people in a cursed hotel room, sticks his tongue out and says “Your tears and piss will make my hunger stronger.” Incidentally, this may be the first portrayal of Death with a tongue since the Bill & Ted movies if you’ve been keeping track.
Death (Craig Kelly) laments that he’s stuck in a crummy motel room with four leech-mouthed demons that don’t even know how to put their masks on right.
  • Best Advertisement for Lysol: The hotel bathroom after Erin (Jensen Jacobs) projectile vomits in it in the first segment.
  • Best Reference to the Title of an Old-Ass Ministry Album That Probably I Only Got Because That’s How My Brain Works: The comeuppance that Marty Lustig (Todd Martin) receives from the drug dealer he ripped off after boring us and his squeeze Pammy about the sweet serial killer collection he acquired for the drugs and money he stole. Marty has lines such as “I’ve got connections. Pull a little string here, a little string there. I’m awesome;” “Feel the power, baby. Absorb it. This isn’t any of that DVD crap;” and “Everybody loves a little head” before putting the skull of a murder victim down by Pammy’s crotch while they’re in bed.
  • Best Ringu Update: Late-night video clerk Trevor (Christopher Preyer) gets a disc featuring footage of a demon woman, demons humping and a sweet gore montage but then makes the mistake of going into the stockroom and winds up bending over backwards to provide service to a guest.
Auditioner Juliana (Fabiana Formica) expresses her mild dismay to Caitlyn (Julia Vally) after finding out that her tryout was for nought in the segment “Cold Read.”
  • Best Just Give Her the Part: Fabiana Formica as Juliana Morris in “Cold Read.” Enough said.
  • Best-Dressed Evil Clergyperson: Mike “Daddy” Gordon as the Dark Priest who hangs out and chants a lot at an demonic orgy overseen by The Muse in the last story, wears a funny looking hat and says “Now the dark veil is breached. The dark powers shall inherit all the souls on Earth and once again the Elder Gods shall rule this Universe” before we get some Cthulhu action.
  • Best User of Supernatural Motivation: Edwin Parker (Nick Randal) sucks some white demon fluid out from his rotten-toothed muse, sticks some demon leeches up by his nipples and appears to be enjoying himself a lot as he gets his blood sucked out, then paints a picture of some Lovecraftian monsters with the mixture.
  • Best Use of Her Enormous Talents: Samantha (Dilynn Fawn Harvey) decides to enter the skeezy hotel room that Edwin is renting even though he answers the door covered in blood and has scars by his chest from when the demon leeches sucked out his blood. She then aardvarks him, gets her throat ripped out and bleeds all over her garbonzas and then comes back to life and then aardvarks him some more.

Hi-Death has something for every mutant. Most definitely worth checking out, even with some of its flaws.

Three and a half stars, but really close to four, depending on how critical a mutant you are.

Hi-Death is available on DVD through many fine retailers and is streaming on Amazon Prime and elsewhere. Its official Facebook page is www.facebook.com/hideathmovie

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