V/H/S is an anthology horror film composed of six found footage stories, each with a different director. The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in January and can now be found on demand on iTunes and in a limited number of theaters around the country. Conceptually this is a clever anthology horror. The found footage style is no doubt overused these days but it does seem to be most effective in the horror genre, adding a more realistic perspective when done right.
The stories in V/H/S vary in quality, and two of them are just plain bad, but the VHS theme is actually pretty cool, despite a plethora of logical flaws. There are plenty of moments in the film where I found myself wondering “why is this even being taped?” and “who would even put a series of recorded webcam video on a VHS tape in the 21st century?” And overall the film is dark, crude, and utterly bizarre in some cases, and the production as a whole overstays its welcome by a good 15 minutes (it is a two hour movie…). However, V/H/S provides plenty of bone-chilling scares and innovations to the found footage style with each of its six stories:
“Tape 56” Directed by Adam Wingard
This is the main story, the one that sets up the other shorts and progresses between them. It starts with a group of criminals whose leader proposes that they move on from molesting women and breaking into houses on camera and take on a higher paying gig which involves stealing a VHS tape from a spooky old house in the middle of nowhere. When the gang finds a dead man in a room full of VHS tapes and TV sets displaying white static they must sort through the tapes to find the right one, thus leading to the other stories.
I have no problem with this setup, in fact it’s pretty clever, and as this individual story progresses suspense builds nicely, though its plot is simple and predictable.
“Amateur Night” Directed by David Bruckner
If you like watching bros getting savagely killed, then you will love this story! And they aren’t just bros, they are super-bros, the kind who do blow and chug brews while they spend all night trying to get women to come back to the hotel room they rented for that very purpose. Too bad they picked up a blood-thirsty succubus without knowing it….
What is unique about this one is the footage is taken from a glasses-cam worn by one of the bros. This is one of the better stories despite its lame finish.
“Second Honeymoon” Directed by Ti West
A couples second honeymoon gets spooky after they use a fortune telling machine like the one in the movie Big… A suspenseful story with a bizarre and slightly confusing twist.
“Tuesday the 17th” Directed by Glenn McQuaid
This is where the stories go from spooky and interesting to just plain dumb. Four friends are led into the woods by their friend Wendy so that she can lure a mysterious killer who murdered her friends years ago. Not only is this one sloppy and uninteresting, it seems to have been build around some cheesy effect as the killer is some kind of ridiculous supernatural figure that can only be seen as a staticy outline of a man on camera. How convenient!
“The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger” directed by Joe Swanberg
First of all, a horrible and annoying title, so I guess it fits this story perfectly. This footage is taken from a video chat between a woman who thinks her apartment is haunted and her boyfriend who is “away” for some reason… If I understood any more of the plot beyond this point, I would extrapolate, but this story transforms into an amateurish piece of garbage very quickly.
“10/31/98” Directed by Radio Silence
It’s a shame that this one is all the way at the end when the viewer has most likely already lost interest, I know I did, because this is probably the best of the six. It’s a fun, over-the-top haunted house/exorcism gone wrong story set on Halloween!
As I said before, the concept of V/H/S is great, however I wouldn’t say that any of the stories are much better than mediocre. Though it has its moments and the film definitely delivers the scares one would assume to find in an anthology horror. I look forward to the sequel: D/V/D.
EMP Rating: 6/10