So, I’ll be honest, I let myself get really excited about this movie. Friend and fellow Philadelphia author, Jon McGoran, said that my Facebook feed was like an Advent Calendar as I awaited the release of this found footage anthology horror film. I know I wasn’t the only one. To say that alongside Cabin in the Woods, V/H/S was probably the most anticipated release among people in the horror community is a fair statement. So after almost a year’s worth of hype, I downloaded it from iTunes, and watched it alone in the dark, snuggled up with my cat and my iPad. Friends, I’m sure you’re wondering if V/H/S is worth the anticipation. Read on and see…
Let’s start with the good. This film has style. The filmmakers (all eight of them!) had a clear vision for what this was going to be. The aesthetic and feel of the old videotape and camera equipment was perfectly executed. Like director Ti West’s earlier effort, The House of the Devil, the devotion to detail in recreating a medium or a particular feel is uncanny. I really applaud the guys on this. Also noteworthy is that something this ambitious was even attempted. Creating an anthology with a wraparound story, in which each respective segment is directed by a different director (or in the case of the final segment, a team of directors), is a really bold move. Putting something like this together had to require a lot of focus, and in a lot of ways it succeeded. While each of the filmmakers put their own unique stamps on their segments, each story does serve as a compliment to the larger whole.
There are six segments, including the main story arc, Tape 56.” The first tape, David Bruckner’s “Amateur Night,” is one of the highlights of the movie. It follows the exploits of three guys headed out to the club to film a porno when they run afoot of a bloodthirsty succubus. The story makes perfect use of its low budget, by keeping the plot simple and the thrills effective. There are some truly frightening moments, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. When the horror starts to happen, it really swept me up as the viewer, and I was sort of sorry to see it come to a close.
Another highlight is the final segment, “10/31/98” from filmmaking group Radio Silence. It’s a tossup between this and “Amateur Night” for my favorite of the stories. Worth noting is that the characters here are the most likable, and unique. They are dragged into a most unfortunate circumstance when they go to a haunted house on Halloween night expecting a good party and instead happen upon what appears to be a sacrifice. There’s a lot of neat imagery, I was particularly fond of bloody handprints appearing on the walls and the killer dinnerware flying around the room.
All of the other segments have promising moments, but when compared to the first and the last, they just weren’t as exciting. I also really disliked the main characters in the wraparound story. While main characters in horror movies don’t have to be saints (I’d prefer them not to be), these guys are full-fledged douchebags and that makes the main arc hard to relate to.
That being said, V/H/S stylistically accomplished everything that it set out to do. The good is really good. The film admittedly wasn’t the overwhelming game changer I’d hoped it would be, but it has a lot of heart and gets huge points for its cohesiveness.
V/H/S opens today at the Ritz at the Bourse.