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Quint thinks V/H/S, a found footage horror anthology, is the first great horror flick to screen at Sundance 2012!

Published at: Jan. 23, 2012, 5:19 a.m. CST by quint

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Let me start off by saying I’m not the world’s biggest found footage fan. Like most things, particularly in the horror genre, once something gets popular it gets overused by people who know only how to copy and don’t get what made it effective. We saw that in slashers, we saw that in the post-Scream winky-winky horror comedies and now we’re inundated with crappy found footage movies.

That said, I found the original Blair Witch effective, I love Rec and Rec 2 and dig elements of all the Paranormal Activity movies (even if I don’t love any of them as stand alone films).

So, I wasn’t an easy mark for this film. While I do have a unabashed love of anthology movies hearing about a found footage anthology movie didn’t exactly make me do backflips if you know what I mean.

I found myself in the Library Theater after a day of running around Park City between interviews and press screenings. These midnights can go south quickly, as evidenced by my dislike of last night’s midnight flick Black Rock. There’s nothing worse than being at about hour 18 of wakefulness while some amateur-hour shitty horror movie bombards your senses.

Tons of press friends were in attendance, including our departed brother Drew McWeeny, Pop Mech’s lovely Erin McCarthy, UGO’s Jordan Hoffman, Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci and many more. When the film rolled we all kind of tucked in, most of a little tired of found footage, but hoping for good stuff.

 

 

So, the breakdown goes like this: some hooligans who like to go around video taping themselves breaking shit and grabbing tit-shots to sell for $50 a pop are hired to steal a cache of VHS tapes from an old man’s house. They don’t know what’s on these tapes, but they break in and find the old man dead in front of a bank of TVs.

They search the house and one by one find tapes and watch them. That’s the wraparound with the individual segments being the content of these tapes.

Now, these aren’t snuff films. Trust me, I wouldn’t be writing a glowing review of this movie if the movie went all Murder Set Pieces on us. In tone it reminded me much more of the Tales From The Darkside Movie, which is a big compliment because I love that flick.

There are five stories, each written and directed by different up and coming indie genre directors with the wraparound directed by Your Next and A Horrible Way To Die’s Adam Wingard.

The first story is called Amateur Night and is directed by David Bruckner (one of the directors of The Signal). When it started, I thought it was going to be a typical found footage story… the overly loud and erratic shaky-cam as a group of douchebag friends give the nerdy one those spy-cam glasses with the tiny lens in the bridge. They want him to record chicks as they go out and party. “Great,” I thought. “This is Diary of the Dead all over again. Shaky footage filled with horrible, unlikable assholes.” But this segment quickly turns great as they take a pair of girls back to their hotel and find out one of them is a little… weird.

It’s like something locked into place about five minutes into this first segment. It’s an inventive idea for a found footage film to start with (think about it, with spycam glasses you take away the whole “Why don’t they just put the camera down and run away?” argument) and they use it for all it’s worth, but it’s really the getting to know and like the characters that make it work, especially when it goes into some pretty radical territory. I won’t spoil anything but a group of middle aged women sitting in front of us stood up and walked out before the segment was over. Those seats were immediately filled, by the way.

As is typical with anthology films the first and last are the strongest. You gotta hook ‘em in and then you gotta send ‘em home happy and that’s certainly true of Amateur Night, which I think is my favorite of all the stories. Hannah Fierman in particular was a standout in this segment, turning in one of the great weird genre performances in recent years.

Ti West directed the next segment, called Second Honeymoon starring Joe Swanberg and Sophia Takalas a couple on a road trip going through the Grand Canyon. If you’ve seen West’s House of the Devil or The Innkeepers you know that his style is much more reserved and you get the full West experience here. There’s a very smart thing he does with the video POV that I don’t want to give away, but it was in this moment that he got a collect gasp and scream from the audience.

At the Q&A West told us we totally overacted as a group because the scare isn’t so much a jump scare, but something simple and intrusive that earned it’s gasp because of the tension he’s built up.

 

 

The next segment was directed by Glenn McQuaid (I Sell The Dead) and was called Tuesday the 17th, which plays like a take on the slasher genre as a girl brings her friends out to the woods where we come to find out she’s survived something horrible in the past. The shaky-cam style was most abused here and this one is probably my least favorite of the five, but I gotta say I wouldn’t call it a complete stinker, which means V/H/S is one up on almost all anthology films. There’s almost always a shitty segment in even the best. The only top to bottom perfect anthology movie I can think of is Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath.

Second to last was The Strange Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger starring Helen Rogers as the titular Emily, written by Your Next’s Simon Barrett and co-written and directed by Joe Swanberg. This whole segment is told via Skype as a girl is convinced her house is haunted and constantly Skypes with her army doctor boyfriend.

Using Skype is perfect and gives us a lot of really creepy Japanese horror type tension moments as we see the spirits haunting her house behind her as she’s talking to her boyfriend (a square in the lower corner of the screen). A lot of humor, a lot of cover-your-eyes tension and some really disturbing revelations. Of all the segments, this is the one that skirted the closest to Paranormal Activity, but due to the Skype conceit it never feels like it’s aping the style of those movies… oh, and you actually get to see the damn ghosts in this one.

Helen Rogers is perfect here, playing a flirty, adorable pixie-ish type who gets scared by the supernatural activity, but also has a kind of enthusiastic adventurer inside her and wants to confront it.

 

 

The final segment is the one that goes the craziest, as you’d expect. Remember, send home smiling. It’s called 10/31/98 and it’s set on Halloween (which I’m sure you more observant members of the reading audience already deduced. Gold stars for all of you!) as a group of friends go in search for a Halloween party.

The POV is a guy in a bear suit. He’s going as a Nanny Cam for Halloween. When they find the house it looks empty. They take it as a haunted house… not the real “holy-shit-ghosts!” kind of haunted house, but the fun made-by-people kind. Of course it’s the “holy-shit-ghosts” kind and the fun comes as they see weird shit they think is all for show. The escalation in this one is, crudely, fucking nuts. It goes over the moon weird and is the perfect adrenaline punch you need to get you out of an anthology.

This segment was put together by a collective calling themselves Radio Silence (kinda like Broken Lizard is a collective that makes comedies) and they’re pretty new on the scene. I’ll tell you what, if these guys keep churning out stuff as fun and inventive as this segment they’re going to huge within the genre.

With some minor nips and tucks here and there (particularly at the very beginning where we get what feels like a 5 minute sequence of the hooligans breaking windows and smashing walls in an abandoned complex), this becomes an easy genre classic. What these filmmakers remembered was that horror needs an element of fun. Not stupid fun, but real energy and excitement.

V/H/S certainly has all that. Plus gratuitous nudity, crazy gore and some incredibly inventive tweaks to a subgenre that’s trying its damndest to wear out its welcome.

Right now this is my favorite Sundance Midnight I’ve seen and tomorrow night’s John Dies At the End can topple it then I’ll consider it an excellent year.

I don’t know if Paramount’s Insurge label has seen this one yet, but it seems to me to be an obvious fit if they’re going to try to be the one-stop shop for found footage flicks. Seems to me you give this film the marketing team behind Paranormal Activity and you’ve got a cash-machine this Fall.

I have no doubt you’ll see this flick some time. It’s not one that’s going to play a few fests then disappear. Someone’s going to pick it up and when they do we’ll let you know!

 

 

Now to finish off my review of Black Rock, a midnight movie that… well, isn’t as good as this one. Then a few hours of sleep before another full day of snow, sneezing and coughing people that make me nervous and flicker shows!

-Eric Vespe
”Quint”
quint@aintitcool.com
Follow Me On Twitter

Readers Talkback

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  • Jan. 23, 2012, 5:29 a.m. CST

    and?

    by KilliK

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 5:46 a.m. CST

    Anyone from AICN got a take on Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer?

    by theBigE

    Word is that film ticked off a lot of people! No one from AICN there to see it?

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 5:51 a.m. CST

    Favorite anthology still - Twilight Zone Movie

    by theBigE

    Yeah, the Spielberg piece is my least favorite, and the Dante part is just weird, but Lithgow and Miller kill that final sequence, and the Brooks/Ackroyd bookends are fantastic. Thanks to my parents for taking their junior high aged boy to see that one in the theater! I've treasured the Laserdisc of that film for years - is it on blu-ray yet?

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:14 a.m. CST

    "I'm so... startled!" - Randy Marsh

    by NeonFrisbee

    Sums up every faux found footage film evar.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:46 a.m. CST

    Interesting.

    by BangoSkank

    Thanks for the heads-up. I feel the same way about both found-footage (meh) and horror anthologies (woo-hoo)... I skipped most of this article to avoid spoilers, but will seek it out when it's available.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 7:25 a.m. CST

    Sounds like a little gem. Hope they get picked up.

    by Mr Nicholas

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 7:59 a.m. CST

    Sounds good, but...

    by memento108

    Smaller movies like this should be made available to the general public sooner, and not just at film festivals. How hard would it be to get stuff like this released On Demand relatively early? I guarantee us folks who don't go to film festivals won't see this for at least a year.

  • They were sucking up to Michael Dougherty, co-writer of X2, Superman Returns and no doubt Bryan Singers butt buddy. When I heard that it was going to be a Horror anthology like Creepshow meets Pulp Ficton, what with criss crossing timelines and stories, I was very excited. But then I saw the movie and realized why it had sat on the shelf for two years. It was fucking awful!

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 8:44 a.m. CST

    The Collingswood Story?

    by Collin Armstrong

    The Stange Thing That Happened to Emily... sounds a lot like an indie from the early aughts told from the perspective of web cams called The Collingswood Story. Girl alone in a creepy old house, talks with her boyfriend to keep calm, together they discover a legend about the place, bad shit happens, etc. It's rough around the edges but kind of great and a little ahead of its time. Ought to be better-known. Regardless, this pic sounds like fun. Thx for the write-up!

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:13 a.m. CST

    Sounds awesome.

    by Psyclops

    There's too much crap to sift through in the genre these days so I tend to be more cautious when seeking out my horror fix, but this sounds right up my alley. I love the premise and there really hasn't been a horror anthology released theatrically in forever. Thanks for the review, Quint. I've got this one on my radar now.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:21 a.m. CST

    CAT'S EYE WAS GREAT AND WAS PG-13!! FACT!!

    by bah

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:24 a.m. CST

    TWILIGHT ZONE WAS ALSO GREAT AND WAS PG!! FACT!!

    by bah

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:39 a.m. CST

    I'm boycotting these fucking found footage movies

    by proevad

    Don't care if this thing is the next Exorcist or The Shining. Not paying to watch another fucking movie I can make in my garage. This shit is played.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:40 a.m. CST

    Yeah after hearing all the hype Trick 'R Treat kinda

    by phifty2

    sucked.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:44 a.m. CST

    Wow, I loved Trick R Treat

    by bah

    I wasn't aware of any hype, just has seen the title a few times. Finally, a horror movie that wasn't torture porn or jumpy ghosts. The elevator scene was fantastic!

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:52 a.m. CST

    The best found footage movie is REC.

    by vetepalapinga

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 10:37 a.m. CST

    I'm in

    by BlaGyver

    I'd be in solely based on Ti West's involvement. Dude is a modern master. Good writeup, Quint.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:05 a.m. CST

    Drew was so cute in Cat's Eye

    by Raptor Jesus

    I love a story where the cat saves the day.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:18 a.m. CST

    Heavy Metal

    by werewolfbynight

    Is the best anthology film. Every frame of that film is a work of genius. Not to mention the soundtrack. Working in a coalmine is almost as iconic as the cantina theme.

  • I was expecting something like an 80's set horror anthology, all shot on old VHS camcorders, or maybe shot on digital HD cams and then given some sort of post treatment to mimic a VHS look (kinda like Planet Terror was shot on a digital camera and added in the 70's grindhouse scratches and dirt and grain). I mean, how does the notion of VHS, which blatantly implies a retro-80's setting and mood, how does that even figure into this? It feels like extreme 80's nostalgia marketing piled on top of the tired found footage fad.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:38 a.m. CST

    werewolfbynight

    by phifty2

    Heavy Metal. Right on. i think a lot of people forget to mention it because it's a cartoon with more fantasy and sci-fi stories but you're right. I'll take that over anything else mentioned.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:58 a.m. CST

    Fuck! I forgot Heavy Metal.

    by vetepalapinga

    I still think Creepshow is better because it has aged better... but I definitely have a soft spot for HM. My favorite soundtrack/film moment is Mob Rules. Oh what synergy. The part with the zombie pilots is awesome too.

  • You know, the one with people like James Cameron and David Fincher producing it. Although, now I see that Robert Rodriguez is going to do an animated one. This news seems newer, from 2011, so I suppose that is closer to what we will get. I hope it is still an anthology film, whether it be animated or live action.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 12:15 p.m. CST

    TRICK R' TREAT WAS AWESOME TOO!! FICTION!!

    by Nice Marmot

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 12:38 p.m. CST

    What's with the slashes?

    by I am_NOTREAL

    between the V, the H, and the S? Or is that something I'm supposed to know already? I had Beta for most of my childhood.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 1:04 p.m. CST

    Stop saying 'fact'

    by Chris

    Stop adding fact to the end of every opinion as though it is proof to support your opinions. Saying something is GREAT is an opinion, saying something is PG is a FACT. Every single thread has the same people typing with capslock stuck on and they end their thoughts with 'FACT' like it's supposed to make up for the fact they cannot share a coherent thought without using big letters.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 1:19 p.m. CST

    I FIGURED IT OUT!!! V/H/S = VAGINAL HERPES SECRETIONS!!!FACT!!!

    by CreepyThinMan

  • So it's not the "same people". FACT!!

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 2:20 p.m. CST

    Necronomicon: Book of Dead - checke it out mofos

    by Michael Lunney

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 2:22 p.m. CST

    I love horror anthology but will skip this cause it's found footage.

    by Tikidonkeypunch

    If i wanted motion sickness I'd play Call of Duty.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 2:41 p.m. CST

    I remember the old Amicus and American International titles like

    by openthepodbaydoorshal

    Tales From The Crypt, with Peter Cushing, and Dr. Terrors House Of Horrors starring, well whaddyaknow...Peter Cushing. And creepythinmanlives referencing Mario Bava? You never fail to amaze me...

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 2:45 p.m. CST

    Oh and the "urban" version of Tales From The Crypt, Tales From The Hood

    by openthepodbaydoorshal

    had a couple of good episodes I recall.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 3:11 p.m. CST

    I do miss anthology films

    by Jaster Mareel

    There's something fresh and energizing when you get thrust into a fun story and duck into another one before the concept can get stale. I agree Creepshow, Sin City and Heavy Metal are the best. Twilight Zone had some fantastic stories, but had boring-assed ones too like the racist in Nazi Germany and Kick the Can. Tales from the Darkside was ok at best.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 3:22 p.m. CST

    You had me at David Bruckner and Ti West.

    by Kammich

    Plus, I'm a complete sucker for anthology films. Especially anthology films of the well-done variety(lookin' at you, "Trick R Treat"). Can't fucking wait to see this one.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 3:24 p.m. CST

    If you haven't seen Two Evil Eyes

    by Jaster Mareel

    Check that shit! George Romero does a classic Hitchcock-type/zombie horror film and Dario Argento does The Black Cat fucking BRILLIANTLY! Then there's one called Quicksilver Highway that does Stephen Kings Chattery Teeth and Clive Barker's The Body Politic. It's not bad. I have a soft spot for John Carpenter's Body Bags. A fairly creepy story about a girl's first night working at an all-night gas station in the boonies, Stacy Keach experimenting with a hair growth solution and Mark Hamill basically doing Jessica Alba's The Eye. He does it better of course. Oh what the fuck I'll keep going. Nightmares has 4 tales. The first is another woman at an all-night gas station, the second is Emilio Estavez having arcade troubles. The third stars Lance Henrickson as a a priest who's lost faith and ends up battling satan on the desert highways a la Spielberg's Duel. The fourth story is called Night of the Rat and is basically a pared-down version of Peter Wellers Of Unknown Origin.

  • I had heard of it fleetingly, but I found it on demand one night at like 2AM, two years or so ago. I was completely baked and just sat there with a complete shit-eating grin on my face for the next 2 hours. It still works its way into my regular de facto horror rotation, and has become a Halloween night staple at my house.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 3:33 p.m. CST

    Nice recommendations, wrath_of_fett

    by Kammich

    Some of those sound pretty awesome. I'm determined to track those down and see them now. Gotta feed the anthology addiction. "Creepshow 2" is pretty awesome in an off-the-wall kind of way, too. THANKS FOR THE RIDE, LADY!

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 3:47 p.m. CST

    And the one that started them all...TRILOGY OF TERROR

    by Jaster Mareel

    Ok so the first 2 stories aren't that great, but the final one about a miniature zulu doll that comes to life and stalks Karen Black freaked the living shit out of me as a kid.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 4:01 p.m. CST

    Hey guys

    by Nick

    Dear fellow talkbackers. Can I ask one small favour. I am currently in the running to become a co-host for a Podcast about Disney and its about who could get the most votes. It takes 3 seconds to vote. Just click next to my name Nick and submit. If this link gets printed with the article, It will really give me a boost!   http://disneybrit.com/2012/01/disneybrit-podcast-episode-86-wednesday-17th-january-2012-the-disneybrit-idol-final/

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 4:03 p.m. CST

    I threw you like 10 votes, soapdish

    by Kammich

    Good luck duder.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 4:20 p.m. CST

    wrath! How could I forget Carpenter's Body Bags..

    by openthepodbaydoorshal

    ..only saw it once when it aired on Showtime, but I remember it fondly.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Helloooooooooooo all buddies

    by ajit maholtra

    Wow, so many buddies are here. Buddies are falling from sky.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 5:29 p.m. CST

    Kammich

    by Nick

    Your a saint! Have some Karma dude

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 5:45 p.m. CST

    Kammich IS a saint

    by ajit maholtra

    He's a good dude.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6 p.m. CST

    I also gave you vote Nick

    by ajit maholtra

    Because you are good buddy.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:04 p.m. CST

    Lake Mungo

    by Anti-fanboy

    More a mockumentary with found footage. Just watched it on Netlix a few days ago, and was really impressed. Some folks seem to have trouble with the fact that it isn't really a horror movie, as much as a paranormal drama, and doesn't hit you over the head with overt scares every 15 minutes, but I think those with functioning attention spans will love the payoffs in the final act.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 7:37 p.m. CST

    Dead of Night

    by Friendoh

    The first. The best.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 8:54 p.m. CST

    Ti West

    by Another Reel

    It's cool to see him do found footage after innkeepers.

  • The one with Stacy Keach and Sheena Easton was HI-Larious and I guess meant to be taken as a joke. The Mark Hamill segment sucked though. Creepshow and Heavy Metal are probably the best with an honorable mention going to TZ The Movie.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:43 p.m. CST

    If anyone has Hulu I urge them to check out Night Gallery

    by Cureguy

    Just an excellent and creepy as hell anthology series.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 10:46 p.m. CST

    Gee...

    by big_log

    You put the SPOILER ALERT right at the beginning? Looks like I can't read a damn word of this thing without blowing it. A spoiler-free version might be considerate for those who want to actually, you know, read about it AND enjoy it when they see it.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 10:53 p.m. CST

    stubb64, you beat me to it...

    by kisskissbangbang

    I agree, Dead of Night is still tops as horror anthology movies go. The ventriloquist dummy segment is still the best handling of that idea ever done. Glad to see Black Sunday and Trilogy of Terror get some love, too. Kick the Can isn't scary, and probably appeals to Spielberg's worst instincts, but it is representative of the kind of nostalgic episode Twilight Zone frequently did, usually written by Serling himself. TZ wasn't all scares, cookbooks, cornfields & pig people, you know.

  • ...the man's written dozens of stories that haven't been adapted. Do Born of Man And Woman from the kid's point of view. Or do the same kind of movie with all Robert Bloch stories, or all Fredric Brown or Charles Beaumont stories. Plenty of great horror short story writers still waiting for their close-up.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:08 p.m. CST

    There was also a Dead of Night (TV) in '77, with Matheson scripting...

    by Anti-fanboy

    And pretty damn good. Also love all of the British E.C. anthologies. Antoher great anthology is Kwaidan: atmospheric and eerie as hell.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:23 p.m. CST

    Oh God, Kwaidan..._yes_. Thanks for reminding me, anti-fanboy...

    by kisskissbangbang

    ...most gorgeous horror anthology ever made, and deeply shivery stuff. If you've never read Lafcadio Hearn, who wrote (or adapted) the stories in the film, you're in for a treat. Dead of Night was also the title for another Matheson horror anthology film? How did I not know about this? Thanks for the tip, anti, I'll check it out. Ever seen an old Hollywood one called Flesh And Fantasy? Not one of the greats, but it has its moments.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:41 p.m. CST

    mcgootoo, nice to run into you again...

    by kisskissbangbang

    ...(and to forestall the question, I haven't gotten in touch with Alexei yet, but I will, and soon. Life got complicated for a while, but it's simplifying...) Looked Necronomicon up on IMDb, and it sounds kind of interesting, but there's so few, if any, film adaptations of his work that convey the true Lovecraftian feel. Your liking it boosts its stock, yet I've been burned so often...but I'll take a look if I ever run across it.

  • Jan. 24, 2012, 12:46 a.m. CST

    1972's Tales From the Crypt is a personal favorite

    by CountOrlok

    How can you not love any movie featuring Peter Cushing?

  • Jan. 24, 2012, 4 a.m. CST

    FFS

    by name

    Is Your Next Simon Barrett some kind of reality show to find the next big indie horror director or is the film actually called You're Next and the reviewer is actually illiterate?

  • Jan. 24, 2012, 6:31 a.m. CST

    Should we reminisce on TV series also?

    by bah

    Staying up late to watch Tales From the Dark Side and Monsters was usually great but every once in a while REALLY scared the crap out of me. Amazing Stories was fun but Spielberg-y, as in more fantastical than scary. Freddy's Nightmares - didn't watch often but quite gory for syndicated TV

  • Jan. 24, 2012, 11:33 p.m. CST

    TALES OF THE HOOD reigns supreme in the anthology genre!

    by GravyAkira

    Oh yes the shit!" "You're gonna be knee deep in the shit!

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 8:01 p.m. CST

    *YAWN*

    by ethan

  • Jan. 31, 2012, 5:32 a.m. CST

    The article is safe to read. There are no spoilers.

    by GimpInMyPants

    I don't know why there's a spoiler tag on this article but the only thing Quint does is give us the setup. There are no spoilers. The movie sounds good. I love horror but good horror is so hard to find. The last awesome horror movie I saw was DRAG ME TO HELL. I look forward to watching V/H/S.