It’s that time of year! V/H/S Review.
Sorry I have been scarce the past few days, but I have been really busy with the amazing second volume to The Ancients and the Angels!
Right. Anyway, it’s Halloween. My favorite holiday and time of year. Aside from the costume parties and other assorted revelry, horror movies are always on every five minutes. It’s like you don’t have enough eyes for all of them! Thankfully, there’s OnDemand in this day and age. The following is my Amazon review of the wonderful indie-horror flick V/H/S. It’s a little different than your average found-footage reality film. Anyway, on with the review. Oiche shona Samhain!
When I was a little kid, I wanted to watch Creepshow more than ever. I loved Stephen King and I had managed to get a hold of the Berni Wrightson-illustrated graphic novel. Every anthology has a frame story and that particular flick was glued together by a cartoon/comic. I couldn’t wait for it to come out on cable and finally, I got to watch during a slumber party. It was an amazing experience for me. That being said, I’ve developed a soft spot for anthologies.
V/H/S is framed by the video documents of a gaggle of goons who film their exploits and upload it. Tougher than Jackass but not lethal like Three Guys, One Hammer, they’re the kind of shock-vids that show up on ebaums from time to time.
We find that this crew is hired by a mysterious client to bust into this old house and steal this one particular video. When the cretins show up, they find they have their work cut out for them as piles of vhs tapes surround the dead owner. What to do but begin popping the tapes in and start viewing.
David Bruckner directs the first on the list. “Amateur Night” The strongest of the collection, the segment focuses on a group of collegiate bro-heimers who affix a micro camera onto their beta-male friend in hopes that he can film the results of their barhopping conquests. It’s a one-sided love story actually, where the supernatural is rebuffed by the boring human. Twilight in reverse meets August Underground. I would love to see this segment fleshed into a feature length of its own. Cool concept.
Ti West helms “Second Honeymoon.” It plays on your fear of the no-tell motel. I found it the weakest of the anthology, but the ending was so realistic and sickening that it made up for the lag.
“Tuesday the 17th” by Glenn McQuaid is a play on the psycho-in-the-woods theme. It actually has a thick backstory, but you don’t get to enjoy it because this segment documents the closure of the years-long trial the heroine has suffered. I still can’t figure out if I like that refusal of a deep narrative, but my curiosity of her past was definitely piqued.
Mumblecore hero Joel Swanberg directed “The Strange Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger.” It’s a Cronenberg tribute with hints of urban legend fears of organ sharking. Question is, what ARE those organs? Again, we don’t have the time for the obviously rich backstory, but I would love to know more.
“10/31/98” is brought to you by the Radio Silence crew. This tape (which probably was shot on vhs), details the fate of a costume party gone wrong during the heyday of the late ’90’s. Really liked this one.
V/H/S is a sampler (and only a sampler) of some really creative and intelligent writing. It’s packed with visual cues, hints and eggs that you will miss if you blink, but they are there and I had to watch it twice just to catch a fraction of them. Each story leaves all these open questions, but that seems to be the running theme of the movie. The nature of which the stories are presented just don’t allow for the big picture, although the slice-of-life (death?) you see on each tape hits you over the head with the notion that more is going on. Do we need it? Yes, but the minimalist presentation delivered by the minimalist medium does work in whetting your curiosity for more. If the whole story had been delivered, it might not work as-is.
Many have complained why all this digital media would be on vhs tapes in the 2010’s. Swanberg’s Skype-delivered segment has been the biggest target of concern. The answer is security. V/H/S can’t be traced and the owner of all this criminal media (obviously a snuff-distributor) would be caught for streaming such stuff online.
Some segments are weak, others are top notch and I predict that V/H/S will become a cult flick like House of the Devil or The Signal or some of the New French Extreme. That’s refreshing because we don’t get to experience that type of off-the-wall movie anymore in this era of disposable films.