This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the show being covered here wouldn't exist.
In 2019, Graham Hughes' FrightFest premiere Death of a Vlogger received a rapturous reception from an audience who praised the found-footage horror's blend of satirical humour and genuine scares. Five years later, Hughes returned to the fest with the world premiere of his third feature Hostile Dimensions, a similarly unique, quirky and impressively resourceful effort from the low-budget filmmaker.
Reuniting Hughes' cast of frequent collaborators, Hostile Dimensions centres on the events surrounding the disappearance of graffiti artist Emily Mann, who goes missing after encountering a mysterious freestanding door in the middle of an abandoned building. Her vanishing attracts the attention of Sam and Ash (Annabel Logan and Joma West respectively), two documentary filmmakers looking for the story that's going to grab them their big break. Upon investigating the door, they discover it is the entry to seemingly infinite alternate dimensions, many of which – as the film's title suggests – are more dangerous than they could ever imagine.
The concept of a multiverse, made popular by a recent spate of Marvel movies and the Oscars-sweeping Everything Everywhere All At Once, provides a filmmaker with the opportunity to harness boundless creativity, and, thankfully, Hughes does so with abandon. The parallel dimensions range from the bizarre to the beautiful (with one particularly fantastical sequence involving flying whales), to the downright frightening. Then there are those that pose a poignant question to the audience – if you had the choice to leave behind the only self that you know in order to be someone else, would you do so? While Death of a Vlogger found its frights from supernatural spooks, Hostile Dimensions is admittedly less scary, but presents a more existential sense of terror via the possibility that there may well be infinite parallel versions of yourself – and not all of them survive.
One of the most difficult aspects of creating a believable found-footage horror is, of course, the reasoning behind the constant filming. Much like Death of a Vlogger, Hostile Dimensions does this by combining the base mockumentary format with FaceTime, Go Pro, VR and handheld camera footage, eliminating the shaky-cam quality that puts some people off the subgenre as a whole. For the most part, the mix in medium works well despite, confusingly, being split into vignettes of both ‘chapters' and ‘nights', the latter of which feels thrown in for the stylistic sake of it, as it tapers off somewhere around Night 2.
Almost any genre fan would rather see a horror film swing and miss than one that sticks to the same old formulas, and while Hostile Dimensions doesn't always reach the great heights of its ambition, it's full of twists and turns as Hughes steers the story towards an ending that wears both heart and humour on its sleeve, grounded by an emotional and relatable performance from Logan.
Fans of Death of a Vlogger will not be disappointed, and in his third feature, Hughes has cemented himself as one of the most original and exciting voices in indie horror.
Hostile Dimensions had its world premiere at FrightFest 2023 on August 26.