Found footage has become one of the most annoying gimmicks in recent memory. For many filmmakers; it's cheap - and in more ways than one - and convenient for starting a career. It astounds me that people still eat this shit up. There have been countless films made within this horror sub-genre over recent years yet hardly any of them will truly be remembered, because hardly any of them are actually innovative and were made by people who actually had an understanding of when the gimmick is appropriate, stylistically, and when it's not. "V/H/S", the first-ever found footage horror anthology (to my knowledge), is described as being the perfect antidote for those who hate found footage, made by those who also hate found footage. So basically, that's assuring you that you're getting genuine sub-genre innovation when you sign up for this one.
A group of men, probably criminals, harass a woman on tape and then break into a house to retrieve an unknown VHS tape, recording everything as they go along. They search everywhere in the house for the tape, eventually finding an old man - presumably the former house owner - motionless, most likely dead, on an armchair. He's watching dead air. Near the many televisions, there are also many VHS tapes, not one of them being the one the thugs are looking for. Nevertheless, one of the members stays downstairs and starts viewing the contents of the tapes; and thus begins the anthology, with only the break-in plot with the old man, who eventually disappears from his chair, keeping the whole thing together.
The first segment is titled Amateur Night, directed by David Bruckner of "The Signal". It concerns a group of drunk and horny douchebag males who go out clubbing to meet women and take home only two. One is beautiful, but passes out before anything can happen, and the other is peculiar and has huge eyes; and she, more or less, goes absolutely wild and shows these boys the night of their lives. This is a very good way to kick off the anthology; a creepy short cinematic tale with social commentary and lots and lots of gore (there's even a bloody dick and balls). Next up is Ti West's Second Honeymoon, my personal favorite segment, which is about a couple on a road trip who are stalked by a deranged psychopath who breaks into their motel room, steals their money, and wields a switchblade. Expect West's signature slow-burn suspense; even though it could have been even better if stretched out into a feature film.
Third up is Tuesday the 17th. It's a pretty standard slasher story in which some four ignorant college kids go out in the middle of the woods, smoke weed, go skinny dipping, probably have sex, and then get brutally murdered by a mysterious killer. The found footage aesthetic is worked into the plot in the form of static whenever the killer is on-screen, so we never really see him. Also, the camera sometimes shows bizarre images of dead bodies whenever it's aimed at a certain location. Like all the segments, this is an entertaining one; but with Glenn McQuaid ("I Sell the Dead") at the helm and that guy from "Poultrygeist" in the cast, it's not particularly as impressive or effective as it wants to be. Tip to directors; by all means, use people who know how to act, but in found footage, casting someone I've fucking seen before is just going to ruin the entire thing. Most of the time.
Then there's Joe Swanberg and Simon Barret's "The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When She was Younger", which has the titular Emily and her boyfriend James talking on video chat the entire time. Emily believes there is a ghost living in her newly acquired apartment, and nighttime video footage proves her suspicions to be fact. Once she finally intends to confront the ghost, things get really twisty. It's clearly the most ambitious of all the segments but a few major plot holes keep it from truly working. Perhaps a longer run-time would have given it the proper dramatic and narrative weight, although it's admittedly better than McQuaid's contribution. The film ends with "10/31/98", which takes place on Halloween night. Some college kids - one dressed in a bear costume - go to a stranger's house for a Halloween party and find out that it's abandoned...or is it? This segment is a huge improvement on the last two; a bit special effects heavy, but wicked entertaining and creepy nonetheless.
"V/H/S" has the usual anthology film problems - a few good segments, a few not-so-good ones - but the directors obviously wanted to do something different with found footage and overall, I think they succeeded. The good segments clearly came from people who wanted to work in the sub-genre but didn't want to feel as if they were jumping on the bandwagon while the mediocre ones are merely missed opportunities. At the end of the day though, this film is actually pretty darn scary and I'll be sure to watch it again before the year is out. I think it could use some trimming (and I've heard rumors of a 93 minute cut, as opposed to the 116 minute one that I saw, hitting theaters and VOD when the film does) but I didn't feel that it overstayed its welcome too much. "V/H/S" starts strong and ends strong; and while it's probably not going to do anything revolutionary for horror or for found footage, it's still one of the more fun affairs caught on tape.
VHS Man I remember VHS tapes like it was only yesterday that they were the big thing. There was nothing better than going to the video store to rent all kinds of movies and wrestling tapes. Also if you had a video camera you filmed onto VHS tapes. That is what we have here with the film "VHS" which is about some tapes being watched. So when I first read about this in "Fangoria" I was all excited about … more
This over all was a good little anthology film that honestly was better than I thought it would be. I knew it would be good based on what I read but I did not know there were two segments I would really love here. All of the writers and directors did well here. There may have been some actors that were a little off but over all everything was done well. I guess I am on to the sequel.
Star Rating: Of the ten credited directors of V/H/S, a combination of a found footage mockumentary and an anthology horror film, nine of them have prior filmmaking experience with either feature length movies, shorts, television episodes, or some combination thereof. On the basis of the final product, you’d swear they’ve only just learned what a camcorder is; in their efforts to make each segment look like an authentic amateur home movie, they rely … more
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more