you didn't already think that the 'found footage' style was utterly
exhausted, the V/H/S should provide the final
nail in the format's coffin. Five mostly crappy stories and an
utterly loathsome wraparound piece, all shot in a cynically, cliché-ridden
'home movie' style (that often suggests that the directors have
no actual memory of the VHS era if this is what they think it
looked like), and displaying a nasty streak of frat boy humour
and relentless misogyny, this is is deeply unpleasant –
in all the wrong ways – insult to horror fans.
The film opens with the wraparound story from Adam Wingard, who
at least proves that A
Horrible Way to Die was no fluke – this is
equally rotten, featuring a bunch of cunts who take a break from
shooting Bum Fights style videos to break into
a house to steal a rare VHS tape. There, they find a dead man,
a bank of TVs and a bunch of tapes. Looking through them to find
the one in question, the various stories unfold.
Opening story Amateur Night, by David
Bruckner, has more asshole Bros, out to score with chicks at a
club (and film them fucking her) and getting more than they expected
with a demon girl who chomps down on them – every dickhead's
worst nightmare, no doubt. It's a dismal affair – awful
characters and no story development , instead thinking that a
lot of noise, fury, tits and gore will do the job. Sorry but it
This story reveals the failure of the central conceit right away
– the action is filmed on a spy cam hidden in a pair of
glasses – so how does something clearly shot recently on
modern equipment end up in a dusty VHS tape collection? I guess
you're not supposed to think about that, but instead be impressed
with the digitally created tape glitches and errors that are crudely
plastered across all the stories in this film.
Ti West's Second Honeymoon has a remarkably
tiresome couple travelling across country and having their motel
room invaded as they sleep. It's a pretty dull tale with nothing
happening for most of the duration, the twist is unconvincing,
and guess what – there's another female murderer.
Glenn McQuaid's Tuesday the 17th manages
to be the worst of a bad bunch, with a bunch of hateful pricks
lured out to the woods by a crazy girl as bait for a possibly
supernatural serial killer – the story is derivative and
undeveloped, the acting awful and what little action there is
takes an age to arrive... and is then messily shot.
by this point, you start to wonder just what it was that brought
these directors together – a hatred and fear of women possibly?
I have no problem with women being portrayed as either victims
or monsters in horror films, but when you have three stories on
the trot that take the latter stance, you start to wonder.
Still, The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When
She Was Younger at least switches the female role
away from predator, being a tale of ghost-like aliens invading
a young woman's home. There are a couple of decent visuals here,
but it all falls apart at the end, as if Joe Swanberg ran out
of ideas and simply threw together a bunch of images from other
movies (perish the thought...) and the fact that the whole thing
is presented as a series of Skype conversations – conversations
that on a couple of occasions we are clearly told are not
being recorded – again flies in the face of the film's overall
concept, unless there are people out there storing their video
chats on VHS tape for some Godforsaken reason.
The final story, 10/31/98, finally offers
something approaching a watchable story. The characters are still
idiots, but the exploration of a haunted house and the discovery
of satanic rituals in the attic are at least shot with a decent
amount of atmosphere. It's got some genuinely creepy moments and
an ending that is suitably nihilistic and ambiguous (though you
should avoid the alternative ending on the DVD if you don't want
any good feeling the story has built up to be destroyed). Pity
that it's directed by a 'collective' called Radio Silence, but
you can't have everything. And frankly, it's too little, too late.
Given that V/H/S has been marketed as
a labour of love from established genre directors, the most remarkable
aspect of this portmanteau film is just how much contempt it shows
for the genre and its fan base. This is less a love letter and
more a brutal kicking. It's a film that hates women,, who are
more or less all psychotic harpies here, and it also hates men
– rarely have such a bunch of complete and utter fuckwits
so dominated a collection of stories. The 'found footage' format
is battered to death here, with so much tape damage, drop outs
and other clichéd ideas that it becomes laughable –
and often gets in the way of the actual story telling, what little
there is. Add that to the smug pomposity of hipster horror stylings
– always a joy – and you have a film that is almost
entirely worthless. Another classic example of cinemasturbation.
If I see a worse horror film this year, I'll be surprised.
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