In the realm of low budget horror anthologies, the line between good and bad is often made up of as many varied segments as the features it represents. Heebie Jeebies falls squarely into one of the missing links. Shot in 2003 under the working title The Oak Hill Picture Show, Heebie Jeebies strings together a trilogy of surprisingly different horror shorts in a fairly linier story by employing the wrap method, wherein the episodes are linked together through an all encompassing outer story. This makes the film, slightly more successful than say Campfire Tales because it offers the viewer the ability to stay focused on the feature rather than to be jolted from the film every 20 minutes by a narrators or hosts interruption.
In the case of Heebie Jeebies our story is that of Cass (Bobbie Jo Westphal), a young woman whose dreams have subsequently predestined tragedy (you scholars of Greek mythology will be all too familiar with the tragedy of Cassandra). It all began a few years earlier when Cass discovers that a nightmare involving her mother’s premature passing has come horribly true. Now, the dreams have returned and this time Cass is determined to save her friends from an unavoidable fate. Under the auspice of a class reunion, Cass lures four friends to a remote country house where they will all discover that fortune cannot be fooled.
Each of the individual segments unfolds as Cass is forced to recount her terrible dreams to her disbelieving friends. Initially convinced that Cass has gone crazy the group will soon realize the shocking truth of their mutual doom.
In the first segment, we learn of the dreadful horror that befell Alice (Angela Kane), the victim of a harmless prank that went brutally wrong. Alice’s story is a solid opening and the type of piece that lets the viewer know that this is not going to be a quick slash and burn horror film. The segment suffers from a bit of convolution at the outset but eventually the consequences of the prank become viciously clear.
The second story is the weakest of the three, featuring a seriocomic performance by Jeff Lee as a hapless thief who unleashes an ancient evil. This segment may have stood well on its own or even shined in a different film. Unfortunately combined with the realistic nature of both the first and third segments, the supernatural elements found in this episode along with the tongue in cheek character portrayals, falls sadly flat. Some of the blame for this segment as well as various other moments within the wrap story should be placed squarely on the roll of Jeff Lee, who seems to be mimicking the mannerisms and nuances of fellow actor John Cho (Better Luck Tomorrow). To some this may seem a cheap shot at Lee since both are Asian American actors, however, I feel that his Lee’s line delivery alone is justification for the comparison.
The final segment reveals the twisted fate of Kelly (Reaca Pearl) the final friend of the five, the one who never made it to the reunion. While en route to the country house, Kelly becomes involved in a critical traffic accident that leaves one man dead. Kelly’s tale is one of a marked tragedy that spirals out of control when a would-be Good Samaritan jumps into the fray and offers a grisly solution. Ultimately the fate of Kelly is what will provide the film with its emotional climax and bring the story of the surviving friends full circle.
The difference between Heebie Jeebies and so many others of the lesser anthologies is that the wrap around story is compelling while being reasonably plausible. The acting is by and large well done and the screenwriting shows hints of brilliance, specifically during Kelly and Alice’s stories when the tension is severely heightened and the horror is grounded in everyday reality.
I’d like to say that I loved this film, but the truth is, what I really loved was that the filmmakers were not pigeon holed into the standard shock and awe of blood and brains that has become de rigueur for a new breed of movie makers who don’t have the intellectual fortitude to create an intellectual script. With that in mind, Heebie Jeebies is certainly worth late Friday night rental, specifically, if you’re a fan of the anthology genre. But, more importantly Heebie Jeebies stands at least a head or two above some of the other garbage that floods most of the video store shelves these days. Well, except for the ridiculous title of course.