Once again, I find myself staring at the faces of Bo, Lulu, and Cephus, the incestuously backwards hosts of the horror compilation Hillbilly Horror Show. And once again, I feel the urge to roll my eyes, turn it off, close my laptop and throw it out the window. Despite this deeply rooted, visceral urge, I can’t help but remember how pleasantly surprised I was at the last Hillbilly Horror Show that I reviewed just last month. So, nausea aside, I fought on.
After the first hillbilly bit, some penis jokes, and some close-ups of the busty blonde Lulu’s more perky assets, the first segment began. “Help Wanted” directed by Waylon Bacon, tells the darkly comic story of a recently hired employee who is taken through his first day of job training at what appears to be a human butcher shop. It’s all self-aware, lighthearted, and thoroughly enjoyable, albeit it somewhat narratively thin.
The next segment is “Bloodtraffick”, directed by Jennifer Thym, which opens with images of a badass looking woman scouring a dystopian cityscape as an unseen narrator tells the tale of a war on earth between vampires and angels. Why are these the two creatures which have decided to fight each other? Who’s to say. Such is the game of war. What unfolds feels less like a complete film and more like the exposition of a television series. That aside, “Bloodtraffick” had me actually screeching with joy. It’s spot on acting, expertly executed martial arts, and, yes I’m going to say it, audacious visuals make this one of the best shorts that I have seen in a while. And above all, its pretty violent. I’m not so sure how well the short would work as a feature-length film (I’m picturing a low-budget Resident Evil), but Tym’s short gives just enough to satiate the taste buds without feeling overlong or overdone and successfully showcases Grace Huang’s impressive acting chops.
The next short “The Deed” shows the after effects of some shady, money-grubbing land development and what happens when the working class folk rise up. AKA it’s a bloody, little-dialogue, revenge tale featuring a silent, shotgun-yielding cowboy. It’s all very No Country For Old Men, minus the air compressor. While it does not come close to the Coen brothers’ masterpiece which is takes inspiration from, I am always excited when independent, low-budget filmmakers take ambitious risks like utilizing little dialogue. And in the case of “The Deed”, the risk pays off fairly well.
Lastly comes perhaps the most ambitious installment in either Hillbilly Horror Show volumes. Daniel Kuhlman’s “Rose White” is an urban, psychological fairy tale depicting the struggles that two sisters go through to care for their ill mother. Picture Pan’s Labyrinth meets Requiem for a Dream meets The Last House on the Left. I call this film ambitious for many reasons. It takes visual risks, even when its budget does not always allow it. It succeeds in its more technical aspects (cinematography, editing, sound mixing, etc.). And finally it lends abundant narrative respect towards its main characters through all of their hardship and their culminating bloodbath. My only complaint would be the film’s distracting makeup and the somewhat cheesy fantasy segments. Whether this is due to lack of vision or lack of budget, it’s hard to say but the rewards of “Rose White” far outweigh these setbacks.
In all, Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 2 takes what was successful about its predecessor and improves upon it. This installment is more gory, more audacious, and more professional. For any viewer looking to explore the amazing work that independent filmmakers are producing, keep checking in with Hillbilly Horror Show. It is in no way as good as it should be. Yet, here we are with its amazing showcase of independent horror films.
Review: Alex Schultz