Theatrical Review: V/H/S

If you’ve read any of my past reviews about “Found Footage” horror films, then you already know that I’m a huge fan of this sub-genre. Now I’ll certainly grant you that they all haven’t been winners, but I love the immediacy that they bring as well as that sense of always seeing something in the corner of your eye. I think this style of filmmaking is very effective with the genre and thanks to the success of movies like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield, it’s definitely here to stay.

I guess it was only a matter of time before someone made an anthology film with this subgenre and now it’s here with the release of V/H/S. The best way I can think of to describe this is think of George Romero’s film Creepshow made for the YouTube generation.

This starts with the premise of a group of criminal misfits who’ve been hired by an unknown third party to raid a desolate country house in search of a rare video tape. This group of guys record everything they do, so naturally they take their cameras along. Once they get to the house, they find a dead body, a hub of old TVs and a supply of video footage with each one more stranger than the next. Within this framework, V/H/S tells five separate stories ranging from a crime of passion to tales involving cultists, vampires and aliens, each one all told in the “Found Footage” format.

I enjoyed all of the stories for the most part. Director David Bruckner’s story “Amateur Night” mixes amateur POV voyeur “porn” with a highly effective take on the vampire genre. Ti West (the director of the terrific film House of the Devil) give us the second story “Second Honeymoon” and I honestly admit, I did not see it’s ending coming at all. Director Glenn McQuaid gives us “Tuesday the 17th” which is a pretty nice twist on the classic slasher genre. The collective group of directors known as Radio Silence tells the story “10/31/98” which follows a group of four decent guys going to a Halloween party with decidedly unexpected results. I enjoyed all four of these a great deal and really thought they did a nice job of taking the classic formula of horror stories told in old EC Comics and translating them to the modern video format.

Less successful for me was Joe Swanberg’s “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” which uses a format of computer video calling to tell it’s story and Adam Wingard’s “Tape 56” which is the “glue” for this whole piece. Swanberg’s piece is certainly twisted and it’s format worked fine, but there were aspects of it’s story that just defied logic. Now with that said, I certainly realize that there’s probably aspects of all of the stories that do that and some you can just go with and others stand out to far. This one stood out too far especially when physical things started to happen to one of it’s leads and you just had to wonder why she didn’t then go seek out proper medical attention. Wingard’s “Tape 56” just seemed to me like it wasn’t edited into this properly. It’s story comes to an end, which then should’ve been the end of the film, but then the film went on to tell Radio Silence’s story “10/31/98.” “Tape 56” just need maybe one or two more scenes along with a bit of re-working in the final edit to make this more the capper to the whole thing.

Even with these qualms, I still enjoyed V/H/S quite a bit, but I can only recommend this movie to fans of this sub-genre. If you’re not already into this style of filmmaking and you’re put off by shaky handheld camera films, then more than likely, you’ll absolutely hate this all the way through. But for fans of the sub-genre, I think it’s a lot of fun and certainly worth seeing. Even further, I hope these guys do it again. Along with this movie, we got to see a special preview of another upcoming horror anthology called The A,B,Cs of Death a collection of 26 stories from 26 directors with this preview spotlighting a story called “D is for Dogfight.” This was extremely riveting stuff and I’m absolutely looking forward to the final film.

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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