Soho Horror: HeBGB TV (2022)

Director: Jake McClellan, Adam Lenhart, Eric Griffin

Running Time: 80 Minutes

Starring: Knucklehead, Zenobia Decoteau, Josh Dorsheimer, Michael Garland, Curtis Proctor-Artz, Ian Sanchez, Ellen Tiberio-Shultz

In a small-town neighbourhood, two children playing video-games at home have their worlds changed upon discovering a mysterious package outside the front door. Upon opening it, they discover a strange cable-TV box with a beating centre. Known by the wonderful name "HeBGB TV", the retro-horror box begins infiltrating homes and curating killer content to its audience.

A news broadcast first appears to show a gross newscaster delivering exposition about how HeBGB TV is sweeping the nation, as the mysterious product sells out and is responsible for attacks. This set-up is just the beginning for this anthology tale, as the directorial trio of McClellan, Lenhart, and Griffin allow audiences the experience of flicking through demonic television. If Goosebumps had a baby with the Rick & Morty season-one episode of Interdimensional Cable TV, this would be the humorous result.

Where the film shines brightest are the funny commercials, offering a mixture of wacky ideas. Be it the effective use of minimalism in a cleaning commercial, the more extravagant Mattel-style commercial for a DNA splicer, or the retro-feeling Frankenstein twist on sausages, this is an excellent showcase of differing styles working so well. These various short ideas are the best moments, resembling television throwbacks with a darker edge.

There's also longer form ideas for content, although these are more hit-and-miss. A QVC-style show humorously depicts a host grappling with an interrupting guest, while a movie about an office-worker trying to lose weight feels too long for a less-than-engaging idea. What's curious is how effectively a world is built around these horror entities, as a skeleton comedian dealing with a tough crowd feels nicely seated within the same world as Monster Girl struggling to persevere in a hard-hitting documentary.

As with many anthology tales, the weakest portions involve the wraparound. These feel a bit more pedestrian, particularly straining to work when involving a pair of stoner friends, which is unfortunate within this solid slice of independent filmmaking. This retro throwback may offer few scares, yet it also delivers a mixture of kids TV, early 90s sketch show, and an utterly fun title.

HeBGB TV made its International Premiere at SoHome Virtual Horror Fest 2022