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The Kidd Vs. V/H/S

It really does take a lot to make me nauseous when it comes to motion. I've ridden tons of motion simulators and roller coasters. I've seen plenty of films that confuse shaky cam with some sort of aesthetic style, and yet the only things that have ever gotten me feeling sick are the Gravitron and riding in the backseat of a car for some reason. Well, now I can add the film V/H/S to that short list of things that have left me feeling dizzy and sick to my stomach, and that is hardly a good thing.

The horror anthology takes a series of found-footage shorts and loosely threads them together under the premise of a group of criminals taking a job to break into an empty house in order to steal one particular VHS tape. What's on the tape? They have no idea, but they've been told they'll know it when they see it, and, for a group that gets off on vandalism and sexual assault, that's a solid enough reason to go in on it. Once they're in the house and find a collection of tapes, V/H/S proceeds with showing you five different videos that make up some of the strange visuals they stumble upon. 

V/H/S is a mixed bag with only a pair of its shorts truly standing out - "Second Honeymoon" by Ti West, which should be no surprising considering the good work he's already churned out with THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and THE INNKEEPERS lately, and Radio Silence's "10/31/98." West's take on the material easily has the most character development of the lot, and, even in a short time, you get the feeling that you know who these characters are and how they operate from the basic familiarity West instills upon them. As a result, there's something to the dangerous situation they find themselves in as they're being followed during their road trip by a mysterious girl who's supposedly just looking for a ride. There's an underlying creepiness to West's execution here, which leads you to actually wanting to know what's going to happen next, a crucial element for some successful but, more importantly, unpredictable horror. Radio Silence's approach to a haunted house story winds up working, because, for once, V/H/S isn't using a panic-stricken cameraperson to try to invoke fear in the audience, it actually has some impressive visuals to make it gel. The simplicity of having a few guys showing up for a Halloween party only to find an abandoned house and a surprise lurking inside gets elevated by some well-used and well-timed special effects. The extra budget put into "10/31/98" just makes the short look like it's in an entirely different league as the rest of the material that precedes it, and, with as rudimentary a concept as the rest of V/H/S, it's the frills that help separate it from the rest of the pack.

But V/H/S has a major problem to overcome at all turns, which is the worst use of found-footage I've experienced to this point. I have no problem with the sub-genre of found-footage, as long as they're making the gimmick work in the context of the film. I've give credit to V/H/S in its ambition, trying to concoct an entire movie around the discovery of these shorts, but the execution is all a mistake. Sitting for two hours trying to keep your meal down as your eyes tire, trying to follow the action taking place on-screen is an experience one shouldn't have to suffer through. Even something as shaky as THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT had the common sense and decency to put the camera in someone's hands who could keep it steady every once in awhile, allowing your brain time process what it is that you were looking at and follow accordingly. V/H/S does no such thing, leaving you concentrating more on not throwing up than on figuring out who's who is the neverending swish of camera movement. V/H/S looks amateurish and consequently feels amateurish. If I wanted to watch a bunch of people incompetently shoot footage with camcorders, I'd... nope, nevermind. I never want to see that, and I doubt you do either, which is why i suggest passing on V/H/S. 


-Billy Donnelly

"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"

Follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 9, 2012, 4:49 p.m. CST

    Amateur Night was great!

    by SirLoin

    What are you talking about? The ones that didn't work are the framework story and the horny teens in the woods one. The Skype one I'm ambivalent about.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 4:52 p.m. CST

    These floors are dirty as hell

    by Shaw

    and I'm not gonna take it anymore!!!!

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 4:52 p.m. CST

    Saw This On Demand Last Night

    by LastPairOfSocks

    Only the first and last VHS tape segments were anywhere close to good. "The 2nd Honeymoon" and the overarching segment were awful. Beware.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 4:53 p.m. CST

    I told you I wanted a Rolex!

    by Shaw

    A Rolex!!!

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 4:54 p.m. CST

    Found Footage = Sucks....shocking!!!

    by kindofabigdeal

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:02 p.m. CST


    by micturatingbenjamin

    Again, I don't know why I read your reviews. Yours is a soul that lives to be contrary, the very essence of 'The Comic Book Guy' version of a reviewer for AICN. If I wanted to read the review of a contrarian film snob, I'd wait for what Roger Ebert has to say about genre flicks. More and more, I get the feeling that you like bitching more than you like movies. Well written criticism, but still off-base, and moreover lacking the basic sense of fun in genre films that I miss from Massawyrm and Moriarty. No more chances. Won't be reading your brand of review again. MB

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:02 p.m. CST


    by 1919

    Check out "Scream Time" ... because the people who put this film together obviously did.its streaming on netflix right now.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:08 p.m. CST

    yet another trash low budget "indy" film

    by Marc

    When filmmakers shake a camera to the point where the film is unwatchable, that just speaks to the lack of talent, vision, and craftsmanship they have. For some reason reason indy directors have be sold a bill of goods that says "if you shake the camera ad nauseam, then audiences will find you brilliant and inventive." Wrong. Watching a film shouldn't be a physical chore. Pass on this crap.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:11 p.m. CST

    Glad someone around here recognizes this shitfest...

    by RockHardTobascoSlimJim

    for the stinker that it is. I have never been more disappointed in a "hyped" film as I was when I watched this bore. The only excuse for this thing is if it cost under $500. Somehow I doubt that's the case.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:13 p.m. CST

    I like you...

    by evilhoban

    ...but I don't like this review. It's too dismissive...VHS isn't trying to be high art. It's very good for what it tries to be...and one of the few movies that freaked me out in the last decade. Maybe try some Dramamine next time? :)

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:26 p.m. CST

    Saw this on the weekend with the Girlfriend

    by Redhead_Redemption

    We both found it overly long and kinda boring. The Wrap around was stupid and unneeded It was just an excuse to show a few more boobs. The film would have worked better with just the short segments back to back, It would have shortened the film by about a much needed 20 minutes. It actually would have been wiser to film the wrap around as an actual movie instead of a found footage style story Amateur Night This one had lots of built up but the pay off wasn't worth it. And the twist at the end was goofy and took me right out of the Movie. Second Honeymoon this one was by far the best and should have been longer, In fact Id even say this story could have worked as a full 80 minute movie. I think It was the best and most memorable because It was the only segment that felt real. It was mysterious without being goofy and You actually cared for the characters Tuesday the 17th to me this seemed like a bad Teen slasher Parody and It felt out of place compared to the other segments, Cabin in the woods did a better job with a similar story line. I liked the tension of what was happening but once the plot is revealed it kinda got boring and The action style ending felt forced and repetitive The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger This one was the most spookiest but the ending was kinda dumb. It didn't seem to make sense at all and seemed to be added just to have a twist. This one had great tension and it was original to see a skype style chat be the basis of the found footage, Less shaky cam is always a plus. On a side note, the second woman at the end Has a great pair of big ol boobies and they are on display for a few minutes, Most memorable part of the entire movie was those fun pillows 10/31/98 Probably the most fun of the segments and the second best of the bunch. The effects in this one were pretty great for low budget. The shaky cam is in full effect on this one however, and having it at the end means The headaches start to roll around just as this segment kicks into overdrive. We actually had to pause the segment about half way in because we both felt nauseous. Over all V/H/s is a forgettable movie, I like the idea of horror anthologies and I wouldn't mind seeing more but I think the found footage element needs to be toned back if they make another film and theres just no reason for a wrap around. also The film is just too long

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:27 p.m. CST

    New CGI Tarzan film trailer

    by D o o d you know since AICN is slow!

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:32 p.m. CST

    Superior film. Very well made

    by vermicelliknid

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:34 p.m. CST


    by The Infamous Billy The Kidd

    On VOD, yes, but it wasn't released theatrically until this past weekend.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:45 p.m. CST

    There were stories in 16x9...

    by Jarek

    VHS is 4x3 native. I did enjoy a few of the stories, but if your entire concept is that these are VHS tapes, shouldn't you actually stick to that? I can suspend my disbelief in regards to all kinds of supernatural stuff, but that.... I cannot.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:47 p.m. CST

    I gotta agree with Kidd

    by kurtisaurus

    I was hyped to watch this after the months of buzz accumulated, but too much of VHS tested my allowance of "well it's low budget and indie so I'll give it a pass" on this or that. The kids in the woods was the lowest of the low points, Ti West's stuff I usually love but I found his to be just a letdown, and the framing segment had no real payoff. Radio Silence truly brought the goods and the Skype one was interesting and twist filled (and booby filled too yuk yuk) so not all was lost. <p> I'm glad I saw it VOD not on the big screen, the shakiness would have made me leave the theater in nausea.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:51 p.m. CST

    I respectfully disagree...

    by WeLiveStill...OrNot

    ... to a point. V/H/S is not a great film, but it is fun to watch. APOLLO 18 is, by fucking far, the WORST "found footage" film to date. I still have a hard time believing someone thought this was a good idea...

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 6:12 p.m. CST

    Whatever...I dug it a little more than some of you guys.

    by Isaac R.

    The only story that I thought sorta sucked was the Friday the 13th ripoff.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 6:16 p.m. CST

    Bobo's been eating...

    by Shaw

    Yappy's Dog Treats! That's right, Yappy's Dog Treats! Your dog will love that real liver-and-tuna taste... with just a hint of cheese..

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 6:17 p.m. CST

    You get to drink from

    by Shaw

    The Fire Hose!!!!

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 6:26 p.m. CST

    From the producer of Super 8 and the writers of VHS comes....DVD!!!

    by kindofabigdeal

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 6:28 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    Good, glad to hear it, go away. I didn't know it was a critic's job to take genre jollity into account when reviewing a film. I don't come to this site because it began as a nerdy genre-film site, I come here because it's evolved into covering cinema in whole. Anyway, if you respond to this, we'll know two things: (1) You really aren't going to stop reading his reviews, cuz you're checking back in... (2) You're in want of response and connection and just like to announce to the internet peeps how superior you are to the AICN's chosen employees here. You're better than they are. Now, again, please hold to your word and stay away, because I don't give a flying fuck if the Kidd cares for genre or not, he demonstrates a caring for solid filmmaking talent instead of hewing to the site's given and woefully overplayed exhortations of how great "The Thing" and their like is...

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 6:28 p.m. CST

    Watched it last week on VOD

    by dancetothebeatofthelivingdead

    One of the worst ten dollar purchases of my life. And to think, The only reason I hit the buy button was because of what i read on this site. What a steaming turd of a movie this was

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 6:33 p.m. CST

    jarek and 16x9

    by Glenn

    You're really going to let that stand in your way? Haha, just kidding, I agree with you -- that's an important detail the filmmakers should've considered. Though, to tell you how clueless the audience is at time, I once had to return a gf's DVD rental in a rush, and I asked her if she'd remembered to rewind it (har har). She panicked. "Fuck, I forgot!" :)

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 6:46 p.m. CST

    Amateur Night was awwwwwwwful

    by TheSeeker7

    First of all, thanks to literally just one single shot in the trailer, the so called 'twist' of what this girl is gives it away, so I'm spending the entire time simply waiting for that reveal to actually occur. Secondly, this group of guys was so off-the-charts unlikeable, they were the epitome of douchey frat guy-types, I seriously couldn't wait for them to die. I was actively rooting for it. But even then, so much about the last 10 minutes or so of it seemed mostly like gore for gore's sake.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 7:10 p.m. CST

    Did anyone see the article title and think "VHF" for a second?

    by Alientoast

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 7:10 p.m. CST

    I really enjoyed it

    by Kakii

    Theres not much more to be done with the whole found footage movies, but I really enjoyed this, the only weak story was Tuesday 17th, other than it was really good. a tip to stick by with found footage is don't watch it at the cinema, I agree you lose your sense of horizon etc and it can make you sick or just off balance afterwards. Don't watch it on a big TV either. Watch it lights off on your PC or laptop, maybe even a small TV, it actually works a lot better, gives a more realistic experience of its amateur footage that could be real rather than its a movie. The plus side is you don't feel any side effects either. The only one it didn't work with was Apollo 18 as that just sucked anyway! The only ones that do work on a bigger screen are Cloverfield and the REC series.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 7:31 p.m. CST

    .....I like you...

    by Batmangelo

    That chick creeped me the fuck out that was the only good short of the movie

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 8 p.m. CST

    Hey Shaw...

    by InMyTARDIS

    Thanks for the laughs. I still get a lot of them from UHF.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 8:43 p.m. CST

    Horrible review

    by DDillustration

    Dude, your review is void. You stated your dislike for found footage before you even start your review. And then you end said review stating you didn't like the film.. a found footage film. why even review a movie you were going to dislike before you watched it?

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 9:09 p.m. CST

    by Launce Mustoe

    I think you're pretty far off in your review there Kidd. I understand the seasickness but the frayed edges effects added to the visceral feel. The protagonists aren't the voyeurs- we are. V/H/S feels like it's cursing us for watching and it's terrifying. It makes me wonder what you're waiting for in the horror genre if this doesn't get your blood pumping.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 9:13 p.m. CST

    And, the Tarzan trailer was boring as hell

    by FreeBeer

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 9:48 p.m. CST

    Serious question

    by LethargicJ

    If you have something wrong with you that makes you unable to watch this movie without getting dizzy and sick...why are you reviewing it? I really find it difficult to believe that you could ever be objective if you're sitting there with your eyes spinning like a slot machine and throwing up in your shoes.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 10:31 p.m. CST

    Serious answer, lethargicj

    by chaburchak

    Maybe he reviewed it so people like me could avoid it, which I will most definitely do. If THE BOURNE SUPREMACY had me staring at the floor for 90 minutes, I imagine this would be even worse. So thanks for the heads-up this time, Kidd.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 10:32 p.m. CST

    one of the best horror movies i've seen this year

    by Matt Szczerba

    don't put the movie down just cuz you're weak. it's good stuff and i never even for a second thought about whether or not it's too shaky. it's found footage type movie so it's expected.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 10:56 p.m. CST

    @chaburchak: but... you also know this, right?

    by mrgray

    What is in the review about the motion-sickness aspect that ISN'T immediately apparent from the trailers? lethargicj's question still stands. If you couldn't watch Bourne because it doesn't react well with your brain chemistry, why would you think that *maybe* V/H/S is different? Even assuming Kidd's criticism is valid, what does it matter to you, who doesn't/can't enjoy shaky cam regardless?

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 10:57 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    You lunkhead -- how can you know what's in a movie until you see it? Are movie critics supposed to now possess ESP?

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 11 p.m. CST

    It figures

    by kolchak

    Kidd concentrates on the shaky cam. <br /><br /> But ignores that the stories were filled with unsympathetic characters, cliched plot points, and banal attempts at twists. <br /><br /> Also, West's segment was by far the most disappointing for me, because I've come to expect good things from him.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 11:46 p.m. CST

    Cinema snob, put it well.

    by Nichole

    Why is there a segment in a film called VHS, about Skype?

  • It's not like that was a significant individual contributing factor to my overall down feeling on the movie, hardly. It was the stories feeling mostly meandering and largely pointless that was the main problem for me (well and also, the "acting" exhibited in the segment of the group of friends trekking thru the local woods in the middle of the day... wow. you can see more accomplished thespians at work in the likes of "Anal Cum Guzzlers 14")

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 12:08 a.m. CST

    theseeker7 . I was more of a fan of Anal Cum Guzzlers 13.

    by Nichole

    But to each his own :) Never forget walking into the porn section with my wife at the local video store and seeing Jizz Gobblers. We laughed our ass off, back in the 90's.

  • I mean it was really unprofessional, everyone totally KNEW what was really going on, they were just coasting off the massive critical and box office success of ACG 8, especially after it broke the single year record for all the awards it took home, then it's like they felt like they could just sit back and practically let the work do itself. And by god, they did actually get away with that for ACG 9 and 10. But by #11, the rut was thinly veiled at best, they couldn't just bullshit their way thru it anymore. At least, not and yet still think they could have themselves be taken seriously in the film world. But, I do have to hand it to them, they really came back to life with Anal Cum Guzzlers 14 here, easily the best since the original, and that's high praise, indeed. They truly have something of which they can be very proud.

  • I think I may need to revisit it, with a different perspective and mindset. Probably, multiple times. What an eye opener! :)

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 5:23 a.m. CST


    by ScaryJim

    I have a high tolerance for bad movies - I can see the good in the cheapest, shittiest acted movies as long as the heart is in the right place -Strange things happen at sundown, Zombies anonymous, The Revenant to name a few.. I also appreciate straight up good pieces of art like The Shining and their ilk. What's bugging me is the amount of what I will refer to as DUDEBRO horror films. Films made to tick boxes by supposed horror fans- I'm not even bitching about hollywood shitfests- these are people that SHOULD KNOW BETTER, you know, the people that run a certain horror movie website which has taken to reviewing horror music (metal) and horror games because, well all us horror fans are the same eh. They've been pushing this rubbish for the last year due to some of their involvement with it and also quite alot of other really sub standard excuses for horror movies. One of the main issues is the wraparound story starts off with a bunch of hateful, rampaging cunts- then segues into the first story featuring.... a bunch of hateful, rampaging cunts which just immediately makes me think that these people can't write any other characters - Also, I immediately lack any empathy which leads me to wishing the death of people -That's not horror to me. I love Ti West but his story was still weak, the skype one at least had a spark of interest but all in all it was completely lacking and I've seen a dozen more underfunded, underhyped better films. Ugh.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 7:47 a.m. CST

    The static killer was pretty cool... Plus succumbs girl

    by sott68

    I saw it on hdnet last week.. Thought of was fun but I agree, too shaky in spots. They were short, too... Which helped and there were a few genuine scares for me...

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 7:48 a.m. CST

    poster reminds me of that movie Visiting Hours

    by luis

  • and i'm a fan of found footage horror films too. i've never gotten sick watching "shaky" footage, and i don't usually get too bothered by the "why are they still filming this" issue that plagues most of these films. but this movie, with the 6 different stories, really amplifies all those flaws to the point of being too distracting to enjoy. some of the stories work, some of them are horrible failures, but over all the use of the found footage concept sinks the whole thing.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 8:32 a.m. CST

    I hate shaky cam too, but I still really liked this one.

    by baronweazle

    For any fan of anthology horror films I'd heartily recommend this one. Because it's one of the better ones out there and certainly the best one made since Trick R Treat.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 8:57 a.m. CST

    I wonder...Is watching the movie a lot like reading this review?

    by originalmemflix

    I've give credit to V/H/S in its ambition...

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 8:58 a.m. CST

    Trick R Treat is a good comparison

    by Nunya

    I dug the hell out of this. And, I nearly always hate found footage flicks. I'm also in the minority in that I felt Ti West's segment to be the laziest, most boring of the bunch.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 8:59 a.m. CST

    If you hated V/H/S

    by Nunya

    but have anything nice to say about any of the Paranormal Activity movies, please ... kill yourself. You're ruining it for the rest of humanity.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 9:58 a.m. CST

    Motion sickness...damn you

    by Cactus228

    I've been searching to see just how bad the camera movement is so thank you for that. Another movie my wife and I will never be able to watch.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 10 a.m. CST

    One of those movies that I *wanted* to like

    by BartReviews

    V/H/S had glimmers of promise, but I was overall disappointed with it. The vignette approach really hurts the ability to connect with any of the characters, and stronger connection = stronger scares. Seeing "strangers," some of them fairly unlikable, get their comeuppance can serve up some cool concepts and gore, but it's not frightening.

  • p.s. my favorite segment was the least interesting one.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 11:15 a.m. CST

    Agree with The Kidd

    by castor778

    Normally I find his reviews way too negative, but this was pretty close to my same feelings. So much hype came with this out of Sundance that I expected something solid - at least on par with Paranormal Activity. But the shaky cam, ESPECIALLY in the opening and the first short, were just god awful. Not to mention the characters are all a bunch of assholes early on so you'll be very happy to see them all die. Things do get better with 2nd Honeymoon and a couple of the other shorts do have a good creepy element and offer some descent scares. But for as much as this was hyped, I can't deny being disappointed by the final product over all. A shame.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 11:47 a.m. CST

    "Second Honeymoon" the best? Seriously?

    by mrm1138

    After seeing House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, and now "Second Honeymoon," I've come to the conclusion that Ti West seems to think that a writer/director builds suspense by constructing long sequences where nothing happens. It kind of worked in House of the Devil because there was just enough clever camera work to make us wonder what was going to happen when the main character turned the next corner during her exploration of the house. (Of course, that means it has absolutely no rewatch value, since I now know that nothing happens until the last fifteen minutes.) It worked far less in The Innkeepers since, from what I remember, most of the movie was the two main characters at the front desk talking to each other. "Second Honeymoon," however, was just meandering and pointless.<br>SPOILERS!!!<br>Seriously, why kill the husband in the messiest way possible when earlier in the film we're shown that they had the perfect opportunity to kill him in a way that could have looked like an accident? Sorry, the payoff for this segment was just retarded, and it confirmed that I am just not a fan of Ti West.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 11:48 a.m. CST

    I'm not sure I understand the premise.

    by JRcanReid

    The thugs have been hired to break into a house to steal a particular tape? Why wouldn't they just grab the whole lot of tapes, throw them in a box and hand it to whoever hired them and say, "Here ya go buddy. Knock yourself out." They really break into a house movies??? THAT'S FUCKING STUPID!

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 12:24 p.m. CST

    It wasn't GREAT, but certainly enjoyable...

    by REMcycle

    ...IMO the wrap-around story is pretty weak, AMATEUR NIGHT was very entertaining, SECOND HONEYMOON was crap, TUESDAY THE 17TH was a fun (but horribly acted) twist on slasher horror (with a welcome slenderman nod), THE SICK THING THAT HAPPENED TO EMILY WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER was good (but slow) and its ending totally hit me out of left field and 10/31/98 was well produced but forgettable. Everyone will have a different opinion on all of these, but I haven't seen one part of this movie yet that everyone agrees is bad, which for a horror anthology is saying something. I do agree however that this definitely should be seen on a smaller screen, as it's shaky-camtastic.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 12:32 p.m. CST

    Are people actually defending shakey cam here?!

    by letsfightinglove

    Seriously, go kill yourselves.<br> Also, please fix the Top Talkbacks. Or get rid of it.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 9:59 p.m. CST


    by mrgray

    Okay, I'll kill myself. But then I'm going to haunt you by possessing your body and making you run down a hallway all shaky and stuff. HA!!! Ironic haunting!!!

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 5:49 p.m. CST


    by Kremzeek

    Here to defend the Kidd again I see haha! We might be the only ones! Did you get around to reading my response about Trek?

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 5:50 p.m. CST

    Doh... nevermind, your post was from 3 days ago haha

    by Kremzeek