By: Andrew Ward (Three Beers) –
In the over-saturated genre of found footage films, it is hard to find an enjoyable one amongst the bunch. Today, you’re more likely to run into a snoozefest like Apollo 18 rather than an original, tense one like a Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity. Although V/H/S is not as gripping as the previous two films I mentioned, it does do a great job at reinventing the genre’s wheel.
No Ambien for me, thanks. I’m set.
V/H/S is an anthology horror film that follows one over-arching story of a group of criminals sent into a home to recover a, you guessed it, VHS tape. Upon entering the home they are faced with some weird occurrences that I will leave to you to see. The criminals find more than one tape, and begin watching them in hopes of finding their tape (even though they have no idea what they are looking for). From there, they discover a series of disturbing and horrifying tapes, and one shot from a webcam that somehow ends up on a tape.
As I said before, V/H/S gets credit for telling a found footage film story that does not stick to the linear formula. We get the main arch, that is told in linear fashion, broken up by five inventive short films that cover a good deal of horror/thriller stories. Some are topics that have been seen before, while some are a breath of fresh air to this horror fan. Either way, they help break up the usual monotonous flow of these films. While some had endings that could be predicted pretty early on, some had me guessing right until the big reveal. This kept the horror coming at a high level.
The drawback to V/H/S is the same that can be said for almost every horror film: the acting. That does not mean that the entire cast was awful, because there are some pretty good performances. And even at its worst the acting never came close to those horrible Sleepaway Camp casts. Anyone remember those? Oof. Anyway, the acting also wasn’t helped by some of the weaker stories. It is not a surprise that the weaker the script, the harder it is for the actors to hit their marks. The main arc seemed a bit off as the main plot for this script. And again, the actors really did not help. There was not one character I was pulling for to get out of their predicament. Live, die, who cares. Get to the next tape. I get that they are scummy criminals, but come on! Give the audience an anti-hero or something to root for! Also, the story in the woods. Ugh. Bad acting and a jumbled story.
The acting might not have been as bad in the woods of “V/H/S” world, but “Sleepaway Camp” trumps their ending.
As I touched on earlier, they could not escape all of the horror cliches in V/H/S, and that’s where it hurts. Zombies, the woods, and urban legends rear their heads in times where they could have been avoided. With that being said, some of those clichés work but not all of them. And if you are using the clichés, hit the mark or it will be noticed. In the indie world, some of these pitfalls are unavoidable. The one cliché that is clearly overused and abused in V/H/S is nudity of men and women alike. There are a few sets of breasts and a penis here and there. It doesn’t ruin anything with the stories, but it was not needed. They almost always came off as forced as if the writer or director was thinking, “Let’s get their attention now.” Come on, V/H/S, stop leaning on that crutch and get our attention the right way. You did pretty well without it.
If it was not for the fact that V/H/S is an otherwise ballsy film that branched out from the usual horror tropes this would be a bigger gripe. Just go with the flow. See some skin. It won’t ruin the film for you.
V/H/S is a thoroughly enjoyable horror film. The genre is finally starting to get recognition for breaking away from the awful past few years of crappy, formulaic work, and V/H/S helps back that statement. With a collaborative effort of writers and directors V/H/S provides a veritable sampler platter of mostly original horror films that will have you grossed out at times and gripping your chair at others. My only hope is that you don’t get a ton of hype about the film before you see it. My friend did this for me, and it provided some disappointment. So that is why I’m giving it a three out of six. It’s good and refreshing, but far from great. Go see it if you are a horror fan looking for a new breath of air in the genre.
Take a Drink: every time the acting takes you out of a scene.
Take a Drink: for every unneeded nudity flash.
Do a Shot: for all the other horror clichés you can find.