Hi-8 (Wild Eye Releasing, NR)

dvd Hi-8The DVD includes eight short horror films shot on Hi8 or similar video formats.



Hi8 was a video format introduced by Sony in the 1980s—a higher-resolution version of Video8, which intended to counter the appeal of the Super-VHS format created by JVC. A precursor to the Digital8 and MiniDV formats, Hi8 had 400 lines of horizontal resolution, which was low for broadcast even in those days. Hi8 camcorders were still popular with amateurs though, and were also used for mobile recording by TV crews.

That little historical prologue is meant to give you some context for the new anthology DVD Hi-8, which includes eight short horror films shot on Hi8 or similar video formats. Spielberg didn’t shoot on it, at least not for anything he was planning to publically release, but lots of people used it to shoot films for their own amusement or for the direct-to-video market. The do it yourself, do it at home, do it with a limited budget ethos is evident in all eight films, partly in a good way (practical effects rather than CGI) and partly in a less good way (just because they’re your friends doesn’t mean they can act).

One of the best of the short films is “The Scout,” written and directed by Brad Sykes, which features some good acting by Alexis Codding (Madison) and Mark Sadr (Adrian) as a couple scouting locations in the desert. During the scouting, Madison learns that she must return to the city for a callback. Of course, that’s when they discover that there’s no cell service in the area, and their car won’t start…

“Gang Them Style,” written and directed by Ron Bonk, also has a lot going for it. The story involves a young man (Tom Burris) who comes to a nursing home to rescue his grandmother from a city besieged by zombies. The dialogue includes callouts to several well-known films, including Night of the Living Dead, and the film is endearing both in its sense of humor and in its obvious low budget. In fact, it feels like something George Romero might have made for fun between his longer projects, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Hi-8 also includes films directed by Donald Farmer (“Thicker than Water”), Marius Koch (“A Very Bad Situation”), Tim Ritter (“Switchblade Insane”), Todd Sheets (“The Request”), and Chris Seaver (“Genre Bending”), and a wraparound segment (about three people making a low-budget film, directed by Brad Sykes). Extras on the DVD include a commentary track with producers Brad and Josephine Sykes, a making-of documentary, an image gallery, and a collection of trailers and teasers.

Taken as a group, they have their ups and downs, but offer a fun nostalgia trip back to the early days of backyard filmmaking and direct-to-video horror films. That’s if you’re already a fan of low-budget splatter horror, and have a high tolerance for hammy acting—if not, this is probably not the DVD for you. | Sarah Boslaugh

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