Friday, October 19, 2012

V/H/S (2012)

There is no denying that one of the biggest gimmicks used in film over the past 5 years, most notably in horror, has been the 'found footage' or POV - type of film making. For me this sub-genre has been a huge hit or miss. For ever gem that is released such as 2007's Rec, you might get two..maybe three absolute clunkers (ex. Apollo 18). Unfortunately, and I say that because I had such high hopes upon hearing about this project, the collective effort of V/H/S falls somewhere in between the cracks.

This latest horror anthology starts out with the premise of a group of hooligans that take a job to break into an abandoned house to steal a particular vhs tape. Who is behind this whole operation? What is on the tape they are looking for? Those such things are never revealed, but then again this is only the wrap around story. So once they arrive at the house, one by one each member of the group begins to view of the many unmarked vhs tapes that happen to be laying around. Each one having their own twisted tale to tell. The wrap around really does not offer much to the story, despite it taking up a decent amount of total screen time. You never get to really know these characters, aside from the fact that they get off on random acts of mischief. So you won't give a shit when *SPOILER ALERT* they meet their untimely demise.

Now I have to start with my major gripe here. That being the ad nauseam camera work that runs ramped throughout most of the film's duration. V/H/S uses the shaky cam effect to the absolute worst degree, and it's a shame.  Instead of helping what is on the screen, it becomes more of a distraction than anything.  

Anyway, so the first short up is "Amateur Night", directed by David Bruckner (The Signal) who's story follows three college kids who head out for a night of pub crawling, and well basically to get laid. After meeting a mysterious black haired, wide-eyed girl, things take a very odd turn for the worst. Easily the best thing about this story, is the main actress here. The girl in question quietly utters just one line continually that gives off a nice chilling vibe, that you know will be relevant to the end of the story. Despite the roller coaster type ride the camera takes you on, Amateur Night is one of the better offerings that V/H/S has. The characters and dialogue might be a bit amateurish, hence the title, but it's a fun trip.

"Second Honeymoon" is the title of the second tape shown. Directed by Ti West (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers), this one follows a couple on a honeymoon-type road trip when they encounter that they may not be alone.  Now if you are familiar with West's other films, then you should know what to expect here. It's more of the same, not much different. You'll get the most in character development, but West's slow build requires that you have patience. For me, this one just didn't work. I could never get into the story and just found the end result to be less than satisfactory.

"Tuesday the 17th", directed by Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead) revolves around a group of young kids who head into the woods to party. This one plays out as a quasi-spoof of an 80's slasher flick, and results in EASILY the worst of the bunch. Its comedic/over the top tone makes it stand out like a sore thumb from the rest of the group. This could have and should have been left on the cutting room floor. That is all.

"The Sick thing that happened to Emily when she was younger", directed by Joe Swanberg takes place during a skype conversation between a couple, when suddenly strange things start to occur. This is the first tale that looks and feels different from it's predecessors, and you get that right off the bat. Their are some nice shots that happen in the background of these conversations that we watch, that add excitement to the story. But what threw me for a loop is the head scratching, WTF ending that you will not see coming. It's a nice little surprise, and certainly better than the last two stories.

"10/31/98", directed by a collective group of filmmakers known as Radio Silence, is the final tape shown and it turns out to be the saving grace for the film. A group of friends head out for a Halloween party but unfortunately end up in the wrong house. Some great special effects are used here, excellent camera work, and just a really solid creepy story to boot. They really did save the best for last. If anything, this could have been a little longer or if done correctly even a full length feature. It's that good.

Depending on your feeling regarding the found footage genre will ultimately play a factor in final thoughts regarding V/H/S. Overall though, it's just a mixed bag of horror. I give credit to the filmmakers for bringing something different to the table, it just failed to capitalize on it's potential. With a running time of just under 2 hrs, I can't help but think how much stronger this could have been if just trimmed down in certain areas.

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