Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Bloody Violence, Strong Sexuality, Graphic Nudity, Pervasive Language and some Drug Use
Directed by: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg & Radio Silence
Written by: Simon Barrett, David Bruckner, Nicholas Tecosky, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid & Radio Silence
Starring: Calvin Reeder, Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Drew Sawyer, Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal, Norma C. Quinones, Helen Rogers, Daniel Kaufman & Radio Silence
V/H/S is one of the many anthologies that has hit in recent years, but this one is different for one key reason. It’s an anthology where the stories are told through found footage. For those who complain that found footage has run its course and that nothing ever happens until the last 15 minutes, I have good news! V/H/S boils down to the key ideas of each segment while scaring up some legitimate frights. The stories themselves are a bit of a mixed bag, much like any anthology. As a whole, the film winds up being a great thrill ride that delivers the scares and some really cool stories told in the found footage format.
TAPE 56 (Wraparound): The wraparound segment follows a group of criminals that film their crimes. When one of the cohorts tells his buddies that he’s got a way to make a ton of money in a single night, they are interested. All they have to do is break into an isolated house and steal one rare VHS tape. Upon arriving at the house, they find a dead body situated in front of a multitude of flickering TV screens and VHS tapes scattered everywhere. They begin watching the tapes (the five segments) and weird things begin to happen.
This wraparound segment is intense and thrives off the subtle differences that change in surroundings of the characters as they watch the VHS tapes. At one point, something disappears that was there before. A shadow moves across the basement and the criminals begin to vanish one-by-one with each consecutive tape. This makes for an intense watch, especially when one of the scarier segments has ended. A very well-done wraparound segment! A-
AMATEUR NIGHT: The second-best story of the entire movie is the first segment to start off the film. A trio of douchebags implement a pair of spy-glasses equipped with a camera hidden in them to record a porno. They go to clubs to pick up chicks and wind up with two girls in tow. One of which is drunk beyond reason and the other is a bug-eyed weird woman who keeps uttering “I like you.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which one is going to be more than meets the eye.
Directed by one of the people behind THE SIGNAL, this segment builds up slowly and then becomes absolutely terrifying when the shit hits the fan. It’s a freaky bit of found footage that winds up being the second-best of the bunch and a great way to kick things off. A
SECOND HONEYMOON: Ti West (a filmmaker that I’ve never really been a fan of) gives us a segment where his slow-burn style of storytelling actually pays off nicely. A couple is on a road trip and doing little mundane things, but there seems to be someone stalking them in the background. This someone actually breaks into their motel room one night and things get progressively worse from there. This story is based around tension that is non-existent at first and comes to a fever-pitch in the final minutes. Good stuff. B
TUESDAY THE 17TH: The third segment is without a doubt, the worst of the bunch. It follows a group of four young adults on a camping trip. A female member of the group knows more about the secluded area than she’s letting on. This segment basically plays out like a slasher movie done in 15 minutes with a killer that can’t be captured on video. Cheesy effects and some bad acting nearly ruin this one completely, but it still winds up having some enjoyable merits. C
THE SICK THING THAT HAPPENED TO EMILY WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER: Picking up from that so-so story, this fourth segment winds up being great! Told through a series of Skype conversations between a long-distance couple, it details the accounts of a possible haunted apartment that leads to something far more strange and original. Revel in the sheer weirdness and some effective jump-out-of-your-seat scares! This one is a winner! B+
10/31/98: Primarily known for their online comedy, Radio Silence sends V/H/S out on the highest note possible. Set on Halloween 1998 and recorded from a camera attached to a nanny-cam costume, four friends head out to a Halloween party at a spooky old house. They wind up at the wrong house and things go horribly wrong in supernatural style! Featuring some awesome effects and hilarious moments, this is the definitely the best of the six stories showcased here! Fantastic segment and I can’t wait to see what Radio Silence does with a found footage horror feature (which they’ve been slated to write and direct). A+
Like any anthology, V/H/S has its ups and downs. There is only one really iffy segment as far as I’m concerned and none of them are outright terrible. The best ones hands-down go to Amateur Night (the opener) and 10/31/98 (the finale)! The wraparound also connects all the segments together in a creepy satisfying way. While it was initially overhyped upon release (I was one of many who went nuts after seeing the premiere at Sundance 2012), V/H/S is a solid anthology told in a really fun way!