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Film4 FrightFest 2012: Britgeek reviews V/H/S!!

 

Britgeek here.

 

Comprised of five segments, found footage anthology horror V/H/S is the product of directors Ti West (THE INNKEEPERS), David Bruckner (THE SIGNAL), Glenn McQuaid (I SELL THE DEAD), Joe Swanberg (LOL), Adam Wingard (A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE) and the collective Radio Silence. It mixes gross-out gore with comic relief and supernatural shocks to create an overlong and imperfect blend that fails to come together by the climax of its concluding chapter.

 

This grim rainbow of a film concerns a gang of particularly unpleasant individuals who have been hired for a snatch 'n' grab job to steal a videotape from a house. Precisely the kind of footage that is on the tape is a mystery, but the burglars find themselves pushing a number of videos into a player in search of the golden goose, each of which reveal rather horrific secrets that have been caught on camera, and all while a decomposing body sits propped on a chair behind them.

 

The first segment follows a group of guys on a night on the town. Their boozy antics fuel their intentions to bring girls back to their motel room by the end of the evening – and record whatever they get up to by way of video camera glasses – but things don't quite work out as one of the ladies they have their collective eye on turns out to have a rather monstrous side to her.

 

Hannah Fierman stands out as the flesh-ripping demon, cat-faced, siren-esque and, best of all, unpredictable, luring her victims in by appearing to submit to the desires of her male company, only for her to become the predator in a very different sense. Like most of the episodes, the build-up is intriguing and the ideas well conceived, but the problem lies in the inability to provide satisfying conclusions, which seem blunt and lacking in direction.

 

In SECOND HONEYMOON, Ti West writes a horrific finale around the loving relationship of a young couple on a road trip across America. Once they arrive at their motel, however, it becomes evident that they are being stalked by a figure from outside.

 

West has a knack for writing realistic conversations between characters. THE INNKEEPERS showed off his ability to create rich characters that you care for and develop relationships, even as mundane as they may seem on the surface, in an engaging way, and in his short it's no different, which makes a certain revelatory shot incredibly shocking.

 

The third segment begins as outright comedy-horror and it's genuinely hilarious. What makes it especially interesting is that the entire short is made up of recordings of Skype calls, as a young woman chats to her boyfriend, a doctor, while she experiences not only a peculiar ailment, but supernatural phenomena in her apartment.

 

The twist ending, while unpredictable, is an unwelcome departure from the comedic tone of the rest of the episode and, again, fails to make much sense.

 

TUESDAY THE 17TH is almost a highlight reel send-up of '80s slasher, in-the-woods movies along the lines of FRIDAY THE 13TH and THE BURNING. It follows a girl who brings her friends to the woods to confront the perhaps supernatural killer she once escaped. Whether deliberate or not, the episode best channels the performances of the golden age of slashers, as the cast is abysmal.

 

The final tape as it were is Radio Silence's 10/31/98, a more blatant supernaturally-charged effort that takes place on Halloween night as four guys, in costume, arrive at the wrong house for a party and walk right into a ritual sacrifice up in the attic.

 

By far, this closing segment feels the most complete. The story it tells wraps up nicely as opposed to going in a direction that defies all logic as a way to appear halfway unpredictable and fresh. A chase scene through the house is extremely well done.

 

Like THE THEATRE BIZARRE, V/H/S feels more like a show reel than an anthology. The wraparound does little to bring the segments together and, despite the fact that they're each shot as found footage movies, is seriously lacking in any reoccurring themes. The tone changes in a heartbeat and you're often left scratching your head by their denouements. The film never once feels like a complete package, only a compilation of bits and pieces that don't work in harmony.

 

 

 

 

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Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 26, 2012, 8:55 a.m. CST

    Yeah, don't believe the hype.

    by loafroaster

    Didn't do much for me either.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 8:59 a.m. CST

    Do not compare it with THE THEATRE BIZARRE

    by megapuppy

    it's much better than that disparate mess. I really liked V/H/S. Was it a little disappointing? Maybe. But I thought it delivered; some moments in there were some of the creepiest shit I've seen in years.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 9:01 a.m. CST

    Downloaded it on Friday night and..

    by Baron Von Penguin

    I have to say I had to turn it off because of the shaky camera work. I remember people telling me that they didn't like The Blair Witch Project because of the hand held camera and the shakiness of the footage. I love that film and really couldn't see why this would upset anyone but having seen about 25 minutes of V/H/S I had to press stop because it was making me nauseous. Maybe I'll give it another go but for now my interest in this film has waned considerably.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 10:39 a.m. CST

    What is the definitive horror anthology?

    by deathbird

    I love anthology films, but most of them don't manage to clear the landing. BLACK SABBATH is probably the most effective, but I'd appreciate a recommendation.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 11:38 a.m. CST

    The best horror anthologies.

    by Dr Eric Vornoff

    Black Sabbath, definitely. Dead of Night (1945) is a classic and Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan (1964) is a visually astounding compendium of Japanese ghost stories

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 12:08 p.m. CST

    Best Horror Anthologies

    by lochkray

    I don't know if it is the best, but I really liked Trick R' Treat. Actually watched it on Halloween night - hands down the best way to watch it. It's by no means a classic, but I thought it was a fun throwback to 80s horror movies.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 12:14 p.m. CST

    I still love Creepshow, Cat's Eye, Twilight Zone: The Movie...

    by Nice Marmot

    ... Trilogy of Terror, and Nightmares, which I think is an underrated gem, if you ask me. And I hated Tales from the Darkside. Haven't seen any of the ones listed above. Will have to check them out. I love anthologies and feel like there should be much more out there . . . I'm bummed to hear that V/H/S isn't as good as it was made out to be. I will still check it out . . .

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST

    Question . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    . . . I have vague memories of one or more anthology films. One features Joan Collins turning into a tree. And one featured a kid's dad being attacked by toy army men. One featured voodoo dolls and what might happen if a dog used one as a chew toy. Any help on those titles?

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 1:27 p.m. CST

    Best Anthologies

    by Neosamurai85

    Dead of Night is not easy to find but if you like your horror on the Night of the Demon and Carnival of Souls side, it's the best contender for being better than Black Sabbath, which is probably the best. Creepshow is tons of fun and a natural favorite for many, but for actual scares it can be found lacking. Trilogy of Terror is great but mostly for the final episode. Three Extremes is pretty great with two out of the three being utterly masterful. I also can't give enough love to Trick 'r Treat, which for myself is right up there with Dead of Night and Black Sabbath for the all time best.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 2:10 p.m. CST

    No love for Asylum?

    by alan_poon

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 3:36 p.m. CST

    nice marmot

    by vermicelliknid

    I think the one with the tree was Tales that Witness Madness, one of those delectably campy but creepy 60s/70s British horror portmanteau films. Joan Collins was also in Tales from the Crypt. I’m not sure about the other two stories though. Now I want to see them... Here's a list of superlative horror anthology fun: Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1964); Torture Garden (1967); The House that Dripped Blood (1970); Tales from the Crypt (1972); Asylum (1972); Vault of Horror (1973); Tales that Witness Madness (1973); From Beyond the Grave (1974); and The Monster Club (1980). My inner horror geek would LOVE to see to an anthology film of We Are of The Dark, by Robert Aickman and Elizabeth Jane Howard which is, in my humble opinion, a particularly good selection of short horror fiction from two very fine writers.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 3:37 p.m. CST

    Aickman/Howard

    by vermicelliknid

    that should be We Are For the Dark. Every horror fan should read it. It's sublime.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 5:51 p.m. CST

    TUESDAY THE 17th is the third segment

    by thefreshestthing

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 5:56 p.m. CST

    Marmot

    by SAILOR_RIPLEY

    I remember an episode of a short lived TV show called Darkroom I believe that had army men that came to life and attacked somebody.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 7:02 p.m. CST

    Ti West nailed it.

    by mojination

    the others were certainly interesting (the haunted house scene at the end was mind blowing!), but it lacked cohesion, and the connecting narrative following the thieves was a bit weaksauce. one thing that really bugged me was the lack of likeable characters. the thieves were complete assholes, the douche-bros with the spy glasses were complete assholes, the teens getting offed at the lake were complete assholes, and that only leaves a handful of others (that were actually ok - the four friends at the end were cool). these characters were irritating at best, aggressively misogynist at worst. the overarching theme of "women as the enemy" was a bit worrying as well...

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 9:12 p.m. CST

    Yeah... the more I hear about this film...

    by Neosamurai85

    The more I just want to see it for Ti West. His career started out rough, but House of the Devil and The Innkeepers are two of my favorite horror films of the last 10 years. The man has found a style and I'm game for another dozen films by him that play in that slow burn character focused sandbox.

  • good shit, gimme some mo!

  • Aug. 27, 2012, 4:42 p.m. CST

    VHS is a great experience on the big screen

    by islander

    I saw it at the Atlanta film festival in March and had a great time. The right audience for this kind of film. Wait until October 5 and see it on the big screen.

  • Sept. 18, 2012, 7 a.m. CST

    Potential spoilers within, but a question

    by Liam Brazier

    The removing of innards seemed to be an explicite reoccurring scene - it happened in several of the shorts, then the whole thing didn't tie together at all. I enjoyed all the shorts really, some more than others, but it's a massive head scratcher why some things seem to want to tie them all together then nothing does. Why not just have 5 separate shorts and not even imply an overarching story?