This is a film made by horror fans who grew up in the VHS era for horror fans who grew up in the VHS era. Remember that sick feeling you got watching a grainy shot of Leatherface opening the door and smashing Kirk’s face in with a hammer? Or the sick in your stomach feeling when Krug carved his name into Mari’s chest? Remember how going to the store and picking up one of these boxes made you feel like you were picking up something forbidden? That creepy feeling from renting Man Bites Dog or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer? This film is trying to take you back to those days.
V/H/S is a found footage anthology flick with individual segments directed by Adam Winguard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg and newcomers Radio Silence helm the amazing final segment 10/31/1998.
The story, such as it is, centers around a group of criminals who video tape their exploits for some on-line “reality porn” service. We see them accost a woman and lift up her shirt to expose her breasts for the camera, and talk about how they are going to sell the footage on-line. The footage then cuts to them destroying a building for no real reason, and then plan their next caper: stealing a cache of VHS tapes.Arriving at their destination they discover a dead man who is sitting in front of a set of TV’s watching the tapes. The criminals take turns watching the tapes, which serve as the stories for the anthology. I am not going to venture into spoiler territory here, I’ll just give a brief overview of the segments.
Some college dudes buy a pair of glasses with a camera installed in it and head out to pick up some chicks so they can record a home made porno. They meet a very strange looking chick (played by newcomer Hanna Fierman who absolutely steals the show) that keeps saying “I like you” to the “protagonist” of the story. The guys take her to a room to film her having sex. Things do not go well.
A young couple touring Arizona run afoul of a mask wearing creepy chick who sneaks into their motel room at night. Things do not go well. The weakest entry here.
Tuesday the 17th:
Any discerning horror fan can get the joke from the title here. A group of kids go out in the woods for a trip organized by one of them for her own mysterious purposes. They are soon picked off by a strange killer that can not be seen with the naked eye. Things do not go well!
The Sick Thing that Happened To Emily When She Was Younger:
This is probably the most unnerving entry. Emily chats with her boyfriend James via Skype to tell him about the strange visitations at night from what she believes are ghosts. Her boyfriend watches from a far as she tries to communicate with them. What happens is very surprising and contains some of the biggest swerves I’ve seen in a while.
On the titular date, a group of drunken friends set off to find a Halloween party, get lost, and end up at the wrong house. The filmmakers followed the old cliche of “saving the best for last” for this one.
All in all, V/H/S is a solid entry in the genre. A couple of the entries fall short of expectation but I still found them to be entertaining enough. There are some really horrifying visuals in this flick, especially the chick in Amateur Night, whose frightening visage is burned into my subconscious. The wrap around plot does not do a satisfactory job of tying the plot together, some critics have complained, and perhaps rightfully so, but look at it this way: there is no real reason that could satisfy the audience as to why a dead guy has a cache of VHS tapes filled with recent footage in a digital era.
What I really liked about V/H/S is that even though the stories are short and plots minimal, there is still a lot going on. Upon the second viewing I picked up on quite a few things going on that I didn’t realize were there before, as well as a few plot points that I missed. Also, as in the case of The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger, and Second Honeymoon there are things that we as the viewer are not privy too. This works to make the stories more interesting as well as enhance the realism of this being “found footage”.
As I said, I watched it twice from OnDemand, but I also plan to see it later this fall as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival’s midnight showings. It will be a great watch with a live, drunk, crowd. And it will be amazing to see the reaction to the infamous line “I like you” with a packed crowd. So, relive the glory days my friends. Watch V/H/S.