Hi-Fear (Movie Review)

Following 2013’s Hi-8 and 2018’s Hi-Death, 2023’s Hi-Fear is the third and final instalment Horror anthology in the series. With Hi- Fear released digitally on June 13th and DVD July 11th through Wild Eye Releasing, all three of the films were made with the intention of serving as tributes to the type of low budget, direct-to-video splatter features that fans could only get through mail order or cult video stores.

Hi-Fear / Wild Eye Releasing (2023)

Made up of four stories, Hi-Fear uses a framing device in which to introduce each story. This framing device introduces the audience to Natalie (Kristin Lorenz: Up The 5 2019, Downhaven series) who is a comic book artist. She is called by her editor and tasked to create four scary stories, and so she starts drawing right there on the street setting out to make each story as horrific as possible.
The first story is entitled Losing it at the Devil’s Whorehouse which is directed by Todd Sheets (Dreaming Purple Neon 2016, Bonehill Road 2017) and tells the story of two guys who take their reluctant friend to a brothel so that he can finally lose his virginity. It turns out that their friend is right to be nervous because this is a brothel in which the clientele is at risk of losing a lot more than just their virginity. Losing it at the Devil’s Whorehouse is probably the most irreverent of the four tales and is pretty silly and grubby without being too overtly offensive.

The second story, When the Shadows Come Alive, comes from Director Tim Ritter (Hi-8, Hi-Death) and sees a televangelist attempt to get away with killing his unfaithful wife. This segment makes heavy use of digital effects to give the film a grindhouse look. It also makes heavy use of practical effects to create the gore inflicted by a family of cannibals dwelling in the forest. With those two elements in mind, this segment is the most visually jarring to watch and with the scant story dragged out to fill in a certain amount of running time, When the Shadows Come Alive is not as watchable as Losing it at the Devil’s Whorehouse.

Director Anthony Catanese brings audiences the third tale, The Streets Are Watching. This one introduces us to a young homeless girl who is stalked through the streets by ‘Krazy Killer Karl’ who is the stuff of horrific legend. This segment is arguably better than the previous two with an interesting synth inspired score and leads the audience into the final of the four stories entitled Day Out of Days. Directed by Brad Sykes (Plaguers 2008, Hi-8), this tale follows a couple who arrive at a remote cabin in the woods only to find that they may not be alone. As this segment draws to an end, Natalie realizes that her day of horror isn’t quite over yet.

Hi-Fear / Wild Eye Releasing (2023)

It is probably a bit unfair to say that Hi-Fear is a really hard watch, and so perhaps a fairer way to put it is that this film is an acquired taste. As intended by the filmmakers, this anthology is a throwback to certain films of old which in themselves were an acquired taste in the first place. So, with that in mind, Hi-Fear will undoubtedly work for those who are fans of the first two films.

However, for those who are new to the trilogy or are fans of more high concept Horror, Hi-Fear is definitely one to steer clear of. Not only is the film just far too long, it is borderline offensive as it focuses on the male gaze and sees a number of female actors topless or naked whilst the male actors remain almost completely fully dressed. Furthermore, while Natalie is asked to draw what would be deemed people’s ‘greatest fears’ and then proceeds to draw very singular ideas on what those might be in terms of actual horror, the film is neither scary nor particularly atmospheric. Overall, Hi-Fear is a niche film with little to encourage a wider audience. All aspects considered; Cryptic Rock gives it 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Hi-Fear / Wild Eye Releasing (2023)

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