Monday, September 17, 2012

Analogue spookiness!

V/H/S/ (2012)
D. Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence

Magnolia Releasing

V/H/S/ is the hot ticket item on the horror circuit right now, with tons of advance buzz on how scary it is and how it has revitalized both the “found footage” sub-genre and anthology movies. Too bad neither statement is true. V/H/S/ works in fits and starts at best and at worst is horribly annoying and extremely hard to get through.

The idea is that eight up and coming directors all delivered a segment, which accounts for the disparity of quality. The wrap-around segment is directed by Adam Wingaurd who has done some quality work with A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE. The story here sets the mood for why we are seeing the rest of the stories. A handful of petty criminals are out and about assaulting women and video taping it. But they discover that an old man has some specific tape that if they steal it could net them some cash. So they break into the old coot's house to discover him dead and a massive VHS tape collection they have to sift through. Spookiness abounds.

The first REAL story is called AMATEUR NIGHT and is directed by David Bruckner. Once again we are given lead characters who think that sexually abusing women is a fun night out. Here is is a group of college assholes who are partying and eventually bring some girls back to a hotel. The gyst is that they are video taping their escapades. Naturally one of the girls turns out to be more than she seems. Thankfully the monster design is really good and it goes a couple steps further than the rote premise originally suggests.

The next segment is directed by indie horror wunderkind Ti West who is most known for his quiet horror films HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and THE INNKEEPERS. Here he feels hampered by the found footage format. The piece is called SECOND HONEYMOON and follows a couple as they goof off traveling. The two only creepy moments the piece offered are things that have been done better by other filmmakers like NEIL MARSHALL and DAVID LYNCH. One scene has the couple at what appears to be the Grand Canyon and the dude momentarily vanishes over the edge. The other scene is someone grabbing their camera and video taping them while sleep, a moment done better in LOST HIGHWAY. But the final reveal is so lame and not scary that you want to throw something at the screen.

Next up is TUESDAY THE 17th directed by Glen McQuaid and is the first glimpse that the film has something more to offer. It isn't great by any means but it at least a little more interesting and scary. The segment follows yet another croup of annoying college age idiots as they go on a camping trip. Naturally it turns out a killer whacked a bunch of people in the woods and the video camera they have brought along can see the killer. Albeit in glitchy, analogue feedback. The problem here is that the characters are unsympathetic and annoying, but the set up has a some spookiness to it and it is easily the most violent of all the segments.

Next is the best one of the bunch, directed by Joe Swanberg, he takes an interesting approach by having the entire segment shot through a computer's webcam as the characters videochat. The segment is called THE SICK THING THAT HAPPENED TO EMILY WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER and deals with how Emily is being haunted in her new apartment and her boyfriend bares witness to it as is escalates. The handling of the material is above average for this film, but what makes this segment really good is the writing. It does NOT go where you think it is going and therefore delivers some genuine tension and shocks.

Finally we have the last segment called 10/31/98 directed by Radio Silence. From the title you can gather the segment takes place on Halloween night as (yet another) group of college males are on their way to a party. But when they get there it turns out the house is abandoned except for a girl being sacrificed by some hooded figures. As they try to escape the house explodes with supernatural activity that is actually fairly frightening.

VHS Styled fan art for the film.

The last two segments are actually very good, and the third one is passable. The others are sub-par to just plain bad. When watching an anthology movie you expect one or two of the segments to be below average but this movie adds insult to injury by making it in the found footage format, so the flaws in content are highlighted by the eye straining videography and direction.

This is clearly a case of hype carrying the movie along. Worth a look for the last two segments, but it certainly is not as good as you have heard. 

Review © Andrew Copp

No comments:

Post a Comment