[Review] – V/H/S

16 Oct

Title: V/H/S
Year: 2012
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
Writers: David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Ti West, Chad Villella, Justin Martinez, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Nicholas Tecosky, Simon Barrett, Tyler Gillett
Starring: Adam Wingard, Calvin Reeder, Hannah Fierman, Lane Hughes
MPAA Rating: R, bloody violence, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, pervasive language and some drug use
Runtime: 115 min
IMDb Rating: 6.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Metacritic: 54

I was very curious to check out V/H/S. I enjoy a good horror flick but I really haven’t watched a single great straight-up scare-fest probably since I’ve started reviewing films in 2010, I’ve watched great films with horror elements in them but none have been totally horror movies. Yes, last year’s Insidious I actually quite enjoyed, but it wasn’t great and this year the horror flick that I’ve liked the best probably is Ti West‘s The Innkeepers and that’s not so much because of the film itself but because I really believe in Mr. West’s talents as a genre director. And he’s the reason I was curious to see what V/H/S had in store.

You see, what makes V/H/S such a curiosity to me is mostly the fact that it’s an anthology horror movie, comprised of a few found-footage style shorts each being directed by a different director. The story revolves a strange collection of VHS tapes in a seemingly empty house, a group of petty criminals are sent there by an unknown person with the mission to retrieve one of the tapes. It’s all super weird, with them finding the corpse of a man in front of a television with stacks of tapes surrounding him. As you might imagine we get treated to the shorts that comprise the stuff that the tapes hold as the criminals are searching for the one they actually want and to tie those shorts together we have this main arc with the criminals and the stuff that goes on in the house as connective tissue.

The anthology has shorts by these up-and-coming horror directors. From the aforementioned Ti West, the guy that drew me to the film to begin with, to Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg and a directing quartet known as Radio Silence. These are all young guys with the same kind of philosophy of low-budget horror movies and that teamed up to make this. Their film premiered at Sundance this year, got picked up by Magnolia and, more importantly, actually kind of worked for me.

No, V/H/S is not the great horror film I was looking for and The Innkeepers is a better movie overall, but, curious as I may have been, I seriously wasn’t expecting this to work and yet it did. I wasn’t expecting this to work for a couple of reasons, for one it’s pretty obvious by now that the whole fount-footage schtick is getting kind of old, and secondly the whole omnibus approach is really hard to pull off. And while I don’t think they pulled it all off it was definitely better than I expected and I’ll end up giving it a recommending grade.

The biggest problem this film has is the fact that, like most of these anthology films, it makes for a rather uneven collection. It’s just a fact that there are shorts that are far stronger than the others here, but the ones that really do work get to stage some really inventive way of getting some scares. That is to the merit of V/H/S and its team of filmmakers in how they actually managed to turn the undeniable limitations of the found-footage aesthetic into something they could use to their favor as they get some really startling moments here.

I dug this because of that, because it used a tired trope fully to its advantage, getting it to enable the film to have something in store for every kind of horror fan, from a haunted house tale to a horny-teens-in-the-woods storyline. It’s impossible not to have drawbacks with so many cooks in the kitchen but these are cooks with very interesting ideas, they are the future of this genre, really, so it’s awesome to give them this opportunity to stretch their talents together and craft a film that, ultimately, delivers exactly what it promises.

That kind of stuff I liked, how it experimented with its format, how it embraced the point-of-view stuff it had going on. The shocks that work here are actually rather good but what interested me the most about V/H/S was the collective part of the bargain, that we got such a spirit of collaboration between these visions from filmmakers who I bet have just utmost respect for one another. It’s a product of its generation, of how cheap it is to make movies now, of how it easy it is to connect with other gifted indie filmmakers to make one and, as hit-and-miss as it undoubtedly is, I applaud it.

Mr. Bruckner tells the story of three guys who rent a hotel room while partying who decide to bring the wrong kind of girl to join their party; Mr. McQuaid gives us his own spin on the classic kinds-in-the-wood premise; the Radio Silence short is about a Halloween party at a deserted house that turns badly; Mr. Swanberg uses a series of Skype calls to provide his share of scares; Mr. West’s for his part gives a story about a romantic getaway that obviously won’t go as planned. Some are good, Mr. Bruckner’s one being the best of the bunch by far, but the ones that don’t work as well, which surprising includes the disappointing entry from Mr. West, make it all drag along at times.

V/H/S is no horror classic but it’s an anthology that comes from the minds of the people that will, with some luck and good will, be making the horror classics of the future. I trust these indie filmmakers to achieve that, I like their aesthetic and their style and how they always make the most of what they get in a very DIY kind of way, this collective work may be quite uneven at times, but the glimpses of the good stuff are more than worth it.

Grade: B-


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