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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