V/H/S - Another Found Footage Film! Yay...
I typically love horror anthologies, like Creepshow or Trick ‘R’ Treat. But a horror anthology focused on gimmicky found footage films…?
I’m listening… …but I’m also pretty skeptical about this whole thing.
V/H/S doesn’t really have a point. Or at least an overall point. There is no morality on display, or lessons to be learned. Since it’s an anthology (a series of short films lumped into one long film), there is a lack of any kind of coherent flow. The way I look at it, whomever came up with the idea just gathered 5 other filmmakers together and told them to make short horror films with the central theme of them all being sort of found footage projects. Some are great, some are awful; and I think the best way to review V/H/S is to just review them as separate entities.
Tape 56 – This is the “main” story of V/H/S. It starts the movie off, and is shown in between the other short films. It’s about several dingbat criminals hired by someone to burgle an old man’s house and steal a VHS tape (btw, burgle is one of my favorite words). They decide to film their crime wave, which initially starts with breaking a bunch of windows like morons and basically molesting a woman... Upon getting to the old man’s place, they find the guy upstairs, quietly dead in a chair. Then they look for the VHS tapes, and they keep putting new ones in the VCR, and that’s how we come to view the 5 short films that make up V/H/S. This story was absolutely unnecessary, and I completely hated all of the characters in it. From the beanie hat loser to the ironic mustache loser. The twist is predictable, I guessed it the second I saw the dead guy. The whole film would have been better suited to just show the 5 segments without explanation. Because ultimately, the fact that these messed up tapes are in this house doesn’t even explain the final outcome of the Tape 56 story. It was just dumb.
Amateur Night – Easily the best short in the entire film. Starts off with a couple of bros equipping the smallest bro of their bro crew with a pair of hidden camera glasses, with the intent of secretly filming their brocapades in scoring with some club girl by the end of the night. OK, lame concept, sure, but the horror element was masterfully executed. They end up finding this strange-looking, bug-eyed girl at a bar. Since this is shot from hidden camera glasses, the insane woman is looking right into the camera the whole time she creeps you out. I will admit, the first time she gets right in the camera’s frame, and creepily says “I like you”, basically ALL the hairs on my legs stood up. They just stood up again when I thought of it right now. It was terrifying for some reason. Then it’s a slow build getting this weird woman back to their hotel room and trying to seduce her. Then things gets a little crazy, and the climax is pretty intense. It was a perfect example of a slow build, and the short’s duration is nearly perfect. Horror movies don’t scare me that often anymore, but Amateur Night actually got to me a little bit.
Second Honeymoon – Ti West directed this short about a couple going on a road trip to spark their relationship. West is a guy who impressed the hell out of me (no pun intended) with House of the Devil, and has been unimpressive in basically everything else. Second Honeymoon is no exception. It has one fairly creepy scene, to be sure, but overall it’s dragged out and the payoff isn’t worth it. Most of the time it felt like i was watching someone’s terrible vacation video to the Grand Canyon. Did that help add realism? Sure. Was said realism sort of boring? Yes. Could it have been better if it was reduced almost by half? Definitely.
Tuesday the 17th – As you can tell by the title, this is a spin on the Friday the 13th-type slasher film. A group of four young folk travel to a lake during the day to relax. Only, for some reason, the main girl is telling everyone how a killer used to live there and they’re all gonna die. NOTHING ODD ABOUT THAT, LET’S CONTINUE OUR DAY, I SUPPOSE? Seemingly out of nowhere, a teleporting ghoul (that can’t ever be seen clearly on the tape) starts offing the kids gruesomely, and at a rapid pace. Then it becomes a weird fight between the main girl and the ghost, or whatever. Th main girl’s motives and dialogue were all over the place. The whole thing was rushed and kind of stupid in concept (and how did she set up traps earlier without getting killed by the ghost when she was setting them up?). It’s like an homage to horror movies by someone who has only seen 10 horror movies. This would have been an impressive student film back in college, because that’s what it felt like, a glorified student film. With all the bad acting and pacing issues to match. But V/H/S is supposed to be a professional movie.
The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger – This was pure garbage. If Tuesday the 17th was a glorified college film, then Sick Thing was a gloried YouTube video of a guy in his basement doing a “demon face” tutorial in After Effects. This short was about two lovers (played by terrible actors) mumbling their way through Emily’s haunted apartment. The whole video was shot on web cams. The ghosts were awful looking glowing green ghosts that had stock sound effects that sounded like laser guns. There was some sort of twist at the end, but the actor was mumbling so freakin much and the audio levels were so poor that I honestly don’t know what happened. It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. I hated it. And that’s not even delving into the glaring logical error of why some web cam footage would ever be recorded onto a VHS tape. At least there was gratuitous nudity. Even so, AVOID.
10/31/98 – This one was pretty cool. Four 20-somethings are invited to a Halloween party, with the camera guy dressed as a Nanny-Cam teddy bear. When they get to the house, it’s empty, but spooky things start happening. Since the guys are kinda drunk, they assume it’s just an awesome haunted house set up. Then they discover what’s going on in the attic… and the house starts to go crazy. It’s a cool house in general, and it only get amplified by neat special effects blended with seemingly crappy footage. It’s found footage done right. Just make it as crazy as humanly possible. I’m not sure I understood why what happened did, but it didn’t matter, it was a pretty fun ride regardless. It ended the anthology on a high note.
V/H/S was sort of an attempt to squeeze out what little lemonade was left in the found footage lemon basket. I’m sure all of the options aren’t exhausted for this genre, but at this point I don’t think anyone should really care to seek more out. Chronicle did the action angle, Project X did the comedy angle, and V/H/S tried to revive the most overplayed angle; horror. And a 2 and 1/2 out of 6 success rate for quality stories isn’t very good. I thought it was worth watching for “Amateur Night” and “10/31/98″, which I would definitely watch again sometime. The rest? Throwaway nonsense, which at times felt like I was watching a snuff film. V/H/S is not for children...
Tape 56 – 3 out of 10
Amateur Night – 9 out of 10
Second Honeymoon – 6 out of 10
Tuesday the 17th – 4.5 out of 10
The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When She Was Younger – 1 out of 10
10/31/98 - 8 out of 10
V/H/S as a whole – 5.5 out of 10
I’m not even going to bother posting the trailer because it’s the most spoilery thing to ever spoil. If you have any plans on watching V/H/S then don’t watch the trailer first! I didn’t. But I just watched it now, and it gives away 3/4ths of all the cool shots in the whole movie.
Is the dead guy upstairs not so dead? Why didn't they just take all of the VHS tapes and get out of there or was this like a wear house full of tapes. Did the dialogue ever go like this: "Yeah, so we are breaking into a house to steal some VHS tapes, then we need to pay to convert them to DVDs since our client doesn't have a VHS player." Guys break in and see Betamax tapes everywhere and freak out since they don't know what they are.
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