Dir. Eric Griffin, Adam Lenhart, & Jake Mcclellan
Two siblings are transported into a television set by an old-school horror TV box.
The 80's were a wild time for children's television. I still can't believe that they put a show like Peewee's Playhouse on the air, and some of the cartoons from that era were surprisingly dark. HeBGB TV is a retro homage to that generation, an anthology film streaming on Screambox that plays with the weirdness of those old shows by creating its own slightly inappropriate lineup of bizarre programming and commercials. It goes for campy and funny, and while it's not always successful in this goal, it does become surprisingly terrifying at times along the way.
The premise of the film involves a brother and sister who are sucked into the television by a mysterious horror-themed cable box that is slowly being introduced into homes around America. It's incredibly loose in plot, containing very little of actual story and providing instead numerous vignettes that vary between showing what happens when sentient candies get eaten to The Blood Channel, a take on the old Nickelodeon show where people would be doused with their signature green ooze. Except, ya know, with blood. It's really more of a mixtape than a film, a conglomeration of a bunch of good ideas that only work as 2-3 minute shorts/commercials, but it works fantastically well for that... if that's what you're going for.
HeBGB TV is impeccable in its production, delivering an analog film that feels exactly like something you'd have seen on television in the 80's. While the programs all have a horror bent, the commercials in particular feel so nostalgic and perfect that I could imagine finding some of them on old VHS tapes recorded in the 80's. The humor doesn't hit for most of the film, though it's clever enough that the concepts work surprisingly well throughout. It's ethereal and dreamlike, and it's a hard film to recommend because you really have to be able to appreciate it for what it is rather than something you'd go looking for.
The queer focus of the film will hopefully draw some to see it who otherwise wouldn't, because this is one of the more unique and creative films I've come across recently. It's a continual bombardment of meta horror, a smorgasbord of oddities and chaos that is hugely entertaining despite its relative lack of organization. I don't know that I've ever seen anything exactly like it, though the closest would probably be the commercials from WNUF Halloween Special or its sequel. While it takes a more humorous and less realistic approach to its ads than Chris LaMartina's film, it has that same type of retro feel that works perfectly for what it's trying to achieve.
All in all, HeBGB TV does suffer a little bit from its lack of narration, though it does manage to become a little more than the sum of its parts. It's interesting to say the least, and it's got some truly excellent ideas buried within, though its difficult to recommend to someone as an actual film. I fear that it will get lost a little bit in the shuffle because of its setup, which is a shame because it's well worth watching for fans of weird and retro horror. Hopefully with its inclusion on Screambox, it'll draw in some fans it might otherwise not have. Though I will also say that The Night Snacker is actually genuinely creepy as hell.
Who this movie is for: Short horror fans, Retro television lovers, Amateur chefs
Bottom line: HeBGB TV is an odd throwback to an earlier time, delivering some excellent 80's references and an aesthetic and score that take you right back to the time of Reagan. It's clever, unique, and it's not quite like anything I've seen before. If you were a fan of kids programming and tv commercials of the 80's, this one might really surprise you. If you're looking for a narrative focus, or something that more closely resembles an actual movie, this one probably won't be for you. It's streaming on Screambox, so it's worth checking out regardless.