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Hillbilly Horror Show
The Hillbilly Horror Show's light blend of humor and horror represents a fine low-calorie snack when you don't want to think a whole hell of a lot while gulping down some exploitation fun. Framed by the hillbillies Bo, Cephus, and their hot cousin Lulu acting foolish as they prepare to get 'piss-hammer drunk' and watch some horror stories, Horror Show presents four short subjects of varying quality - all of them pretty good but very different from one another in tone and production value, and at a scant 60-minutes total run-time, gone before you know it. With another quality short subject or two, and a wrap-around sequence sporting more reach, this Horror Show might have surpassed Rent It status, but as it is, it's still acceptable fare for those who just can't get enough horror in their diet.
After a brief introduction by our Hillbilly Hosts, the first ten-minute short, "Franky & The Ant" - commences. The darkly humorous tale of betrayal and murder musters one jump scare before turning into the type of dialog driven abduction caper fans of Joe R. Lansdale's writing might appreciate. As is so often the case, things aren't what they seem, and a bleak ending sends us back into the semi-capable hands of Bo and Cephus, who enjoy the sexy presence of their 'sister-cousin' Lulu, who appears only to deliver old-school sexist T&A.
Next up, "Doppelganger" burns a scant four minutes with a Ray Harryhausen-inspired -animated skeleton on a journey of discovery. It's a one joke proposition that enjoys the skilled work of stop-motion animation, but certainly shouldn't be considered horror.
Another ten-minute short with a fair amount of gross drooling and blood, "Amused" is a very slight story of the unbroken chain of craziness. Super-low-budget filmmaking techniques make this somewhat difficult to enjoy on a hi-def screen, with a weird, dirty-gritty overlay on some images that's either evidence of no money, or meant as a stylistic choice. It doesn't work either way, and this (also one-trick) pony doesn't have enough going for it in the way of logic or storyline to muster more than a chuckle.
Our doofus hosts then present the final subject, which at 30 minutes runs at least three circles around the other three shorts. "The Nest" presents super-stylish, laconic hicksploitation about special honey made by giant bees. Touting a real plot, actual characters, and even a genuine story-arc, "The Nest" looks like a test for a full-length feature. It would likely be an enjoyable movie, too, especially if fleshed out a bit. I'm not sure if the sepia tone photography helps or hinders things, and there are a few other minor missteps. Certainly the government pest inspector, who looks all-of 18-years-old, could be recast. The actor is great, but maybe for a different role. And victim dialog such as "why are you doing this to us?!" needs to be rethought. Honey, you don't WANT to know why they're doing it, you just want to get out, right? Quality CGI finds the honeybees stripping the flesh from bodies at a furious rate - too fast in fact. Dedication to delivering visceral horror would make "The Nest" near perfect. However, it's far and away the best of the bunch.
Hillbilly Horror Show suffers from a lack of horror. While at a half-hour in length, "The Nest" is the best of the bunch, the other three shorts combined don't top 25 minutes, and that's not enough. And while it's nice to see a woman prance about in a bikini needlessly, it makes this Show seem as though it's composed of just a few ideas hurriedly assembled. This is only Volume One, though, so maybe next time we'll get a bit more. If you really need a cheap and easy horror fix, you can do worse, but if it's up to me, I'd Rent It.
These shorts are presented widescreen, enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions, and look OK. The wraparound segments are clear and digital-sharp, with nice, naturalistic colors, and very good detail levels. Save "Amused" which is grainy, dirty, and presents a soft image for the most part, the other shorts look good as well, with "The Nest" coming out on top in terms of presentation - decent black levels and great detail levels mark it as the most professionally filmed and authored one of the bunch.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo works just fine for everything included. "The Nest" again has the most active and professional sound design, and all of the shorts present dialog that's clear, easy to understand, and mixed well with soundtrack elements. On that note, all shorts enjoy fantastic, evocative soundtracks, with eerie music that sets a mood the stories sometimes fail to match.
Extras are limited to Trailers and Chapter Selections.
Hillbilly Horror Show promises much, goofy humor, a sexy lady, and horror. Touting just four short subjects and a scant 60-minute run-time, those promises are only half-fulfilled. A nice bit of stop-motion animation, one grim and funny short, and a great half-hour of killer CGI Bees make for light horror snacking. There's little real horror here, while the funny and the sexy are pretty low-key also, so if you've just got to see everything horror-related that swims down the pike, Rent It.