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Directed by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg
Starring Calvin Reeder, Hannah Fierman, Joe Swanberg, Norma C. Quinones, Helen Rogers, Chad Villella
BloodyDisgusting.com / Magnet Releasing
Originally Released: January 22, 2012
Combining Creepshow with Paranormal Activity, V/H/S is an anthology horror film, comprised of 5 stories and the bumper frame narrative that ties everything together, telling the tales via "found footage" format. The conceptualization is to take a step back and explore the realm of VHS tape, the domain in which horror dominated during the 1980’s, but is more a mish-mash of an assortment of mediums.
Bridging each of the separate tales is an ongoing narrative that ties them together. A number of young men involved in varying criminal activities (some unbelievable) begin filming their escapades, and take on a high paying job to retrieve a VHS tape from a house. While there, they discover the corpse of an old man… and hundreds of tapes. As they search and gather all of the tapes, some of the tapes get played, forming the anthological display of the stories.
The first chapter, entitled Amateur Night, follows three men on a night out "on the prowl" eager for action – during which they meet a young quirky girl called Lily who only says "I like you". As things heat up at the hotel room, Lily begins to reveal her true form. Following this is Second Honeymoon, a condensed story that is less of a horror tale and more of a quirky thriller with a bit of a twist.
Third on the carte du jour is Tuesday the 17th, which takes on board the horribly clichéd "teens in the woods" horror meme, but adds a nice twist of the monster/slasher not being able to be rendered on film. The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger is an odd but captivating tale, and more creepy weirdness than it is pure horror.
Wrapping out the tales is 10/31/98, a great haunted house motif, set on Halloween (of course), with some creepy ghost imagery thrown in for good measure. The movie closes out with the conclusion of the ongoing narrative of the criminals breaking into the house.
In essence, V/H/S is an indie horror flick, spearheaded by the awesome horror film website BloodyDisgusting.com. And while it is a flawed film, there are elements to it that do stand out – and let’s face it: this is a horror flick designed for horror fans by horror fans. There’s no chance in hell a film like this will be critically acclaimed by consensus – because it’s NOT for the critics or general movie viewers. This one is for the fans. Period.
Having said that, the low-budget indie film suffers with some bad performances, though a few stand out. Lily from the first story is phenomenal, with some of the most memorable acting and appearances I’ve seen in a horror movie in a long time. She embodies the creepiness and will capture your attention. Lily makes the movie, as far as I’m concerned, and I would love to see more movies featuring Hannah Fierman, the actress who portrays her.
For many, the found-footage panache is a little overplayed, but with V/H/S, it seems to work well. The concept appears to work better with horror movies, probably because of how well The Blair Witch Project established the form in the Nineties. The pacing is good, the editing is fair, and the varying qualities of film add an element of realness to it. The entire film is a tip of the hat to things like The Twilight Zone and [REC] – forcing the anthology lay out to mix with the found footage style.
There is one logic inconsistency with the concept of the film – the whole focus is on finding VHS tapes; and yet, the media varies from story to story. One is a hidden camera, another webcam footage, and others digital cameras. While it’s a bit of a nitpicky issue, some will find issue with this element, though I think most horror fans would be willing to overlook this.
There’s also a feeling that the overall product just isn’t firing on all cylinders. The concept of turning found footage movies into a horror anthology is, quite truthfully, genius – and yet the final product feels lacking on a few levels. It’s hard to isolate singular examples of this, but it could be mainly due to budget restrictions. Either way, it opens up a door for further prospects, and I’m looking forward to seeing what V/H/S/2 has to offer, as well as any further installments in the series.
Hardcore horror fans will enjoy V/H/S, with its nice balance of frights with gore (some brutal!!), and thriller-style suspense with weird creepiness. It’s a dark movie, so fans will dig it, though I believe average movie viewers might find the experience to be mediocre. Make no mistake; this one is made for the horror fans.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5
Overall Rating for Horror Fans: 4 out of 5