Talking Movies: V/H/S/2

Talking Movies

Released: 12 July 2013
Directors: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans, and Jason Eisener
Budget: Unknown
Lawrence Michael Levine, L.C. Holt, Adam Wingard, Hannah Hughes, Jay Saunders, Oka Antara, Fachri Albar, Hannah Al Rashid, Rylan Logan, and Samantha Gracie

The Plot:
Two private investigators are hired to look into the disappearance of a boy and find his home deserted except for a stack of VHS tapes, each of which contain a gruesome horror story in the form of found footage depicting a man recieving an ocular implant that allows him to see ghosts, a keen biker who is turned into a flesh-hungry zombie, a film crew investigating a bizarre cult, and a violent alien abduction.

The Background:
In 2012, Bloody Disgusting founder and film producer Brad Miska reached out to the directors and creative minds he had met through his website to create V/H/S (Wingard, et al, 2012), a horror anthology that was positively received at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, received mixed reviews upon release, and managed to gross $1.9 million. A sequel (originally titled S-VHS) was rushed into production in 2012 and featured an abundance of new directors and creators joining a handful of returnees from the first film. Like its predecessor, V/H/S/2 first debuted at the Sundance Film Festival before being widely released on video-on-demand and at a limited number of cinemas. The film’s $805,574 gross meant it made significantly less than the first film but, in comparison, reviews were far more positive and a poorly-received third entry followed in 2014.

The Reviews:
As with the first film, because V/H/S/2 is an anthology film made up of a framing narrative and several short horror stories, I’m changing up my usual review format to talk about each segment individually before sharing my thoughts on the overall film.

Two private investigators discover a disturbed young man’s collection of gruesome videotapes.

As in the first film, V/H/S/2 features a framing narrative that allows for the film’s short stories to be told; “Tape 49” (Barrett) follows Larry (Levine) and Ayesha (Kelsy Abbott), two unscrupulous private investigators who are hired by a concerned mother to check on her son, Kyle (Holt), who has been missing for a few days. When they arrive at the college kid’s house, they find it to be deserted; stacks of VHS tapes are piled up everywhere and Kyle’s laptop has been left recording a video. Kyle’s video log shows him discussing his obsession with the tapes and, while Larry searches the rest of the house, Ayesha checks out some of the tapes. After each short, the film cuts back to Ayesha, who comes to be physically affected by what she has watched (which, according to Kyle, must be viewed in a certain order to have the greatest effect) and is unaware that she is being stalked. Eventually, Larry comes in the room to find Ayesha has killed herself with a bullet to the head but she returns to attack him as a zombie after he watches the final film. Though he’s able to fight her off, Larry ends up being strangled to death by Kyle, who attempted to kill himself on camera to make his own tape and ended up blowing his entire lower jaw off in the process! Regardless, he delivers a thumbs up, indicating that he succeeded in his goal.

Herman’s ocular implant allows him to see and be tormented by vengeful spirits.

The first short story is “Phase I Clinical Trials” (Wingard), which puts a unique spin on the first-person, found footage concept by telling its story through an ocular implant inserted into Herman’s (ibid) head to replace his eye. Though disturbed to find that his every moment will be recorded throughout the trial period, Herman has little choice but to accept the restrictions that come from the implant, which Doctor Fleischer (John T. Woods) explains may also be accompanied by some “glitches”. After arriving home, Herman is spooked to find his game controller moved while he goes to make some tea, the kettle knocked from the stove when he leaves the kitchen, an invisible figure laying in his bed, and a bloodied phantom (Brian Udovich) who gives him a fright. The bloody man is joined by an unsettling child (Corrie Lynn Fitzpatrick) and the two terrify Herman, banging on his bathroom door and forcing him to sleep in the bathtub out of fear. The next day, he finds his house has been ransacked by the ghouls and is visited by Clarissa (Hughes), who received a similar implant to restore her hearing and, like Herman, has been tormented by ghosts ever since. Clarissa believes that removing the implants would simply take away their ability to perceive them and that the spirits grow stronger the more they are interacted with. Although she tries to use sex to take his attention away from the disturbing spirit of her uncle (John Karyus), who it’s implied assaulted her in the past, she’s dragged into his pool and, despite his best efforts to save her, is drowned by a particularly malevolent, invisible entity. Desperate to make the ghosts go away, Herman uses a razor to slice out his implant, however this only leaves him blind to their presence and allows them to easily overwhelm him and choke him to death with the same device.

Mike’s ride through the woods ends with him becoming a mindless zombie.

“A Ride in the Park” (Sánchez and Hale) follows keen cyclist Mike Sullivan (Saunders), who affixes a camera to his helmet and his handlebars before going for a morning cycle through the woods. Almost immediately, however, he runs across a hysterical girl (Bette Cassatt) who begs him to help her boyfriend; seeing that the poor bloke has been set upon by shambling, flesh-hungry zombies, Mike tries to escape with the girl but she pounces on him and tears a chunk out of his neck. Bleeding profusely, Mike staggers through the woods and begins vomiting the same black blood as the girl before collapsing and choking to death. When another couple of cyclists come across him, Mike reanimates and attacks the man (Dave Coyne), ripping open his cheek and then taking a bite out of his female companion (Wendy Donigian), who also becomes a zombie and joins Mike in devouring her former lover. When the male cyclist also reanimates, the three stumble through the woods and attack a child’s birthday party, biting many of the terrified guests and creating more zombies in the process. In a tragic and horrifying twist, Mike is momentarily subdued when he catches sight of his reflection and regains some small semblance of his humanity when he accidentally pocket dials his girlfriend, Amy (Devon Brookshire). Distraught at the monster he has become, Mike uses the last of his senses to shoot himself in the head with a discarded shotgun.

A film crew become witnesses, and victims, of a cult’s efforts to summon a demon through ritual sacrifice.

Easily my favourite of the film’s stories is “Safe Haven” (Tjahjanto and Evans), which depicts a film crew – comprised of interviewer Malik (Antara), his fiancée and producer Lena (Rashid), his best friend Adam (Albar), and cameraman Joni (Andrew Suleiman), all of whom are wired with hidden cameras and microphones – investigating a mysterious cult known as Paradise Gates, who are very secretive and mistrustful of outsiders. Lena is able to convince the cult’s leader, known only as “Father” (Epy Kusnandar), to permit them entrance to his compound so that they can produce a fair and accurate report that challenges the slander and rumours surrounding the cult. Once inside, they find bizarre symbols and effigies adorning the walls and that the cult worships Father and his teachings of immortality and providence; several children are present on the grounds, all of whom are heavily indoctrinated in Father’s teachings, and it’s heavily implied that the girls have been subjected to their leader’s sexual appetites. While Malik interviews Father, who vehemently defends his religion and his actions while condemning wider society for their ignorance, Lena reveals to Adam that he’s the father of her unborn child right before Father issues a command over the intercom that incites widespread suicides throughout the compound. In the chaos, Adam discovers a woman in the compound’s basement who has been strapped to an operating table and had her womb carved out, Father cuts Joni’s throat with a Stanley Knife for interrupting him, and Malik is executed on Father’s followers. Lena finds herself abducted by woman in surgical attire and, when Adam goes to rescue her, he’s rocked by an explosion, is disturbed to see a man crawling across the ceiling, and watches as the bloodstained Father explodes in a shower of gore. As demonic chanting and an air raid siren fill the air, Adam finds Lena being restrained by wailing, possessed nurses but can only watch as a grotesque horned demon not unlike Baphomet forces its way from her stomach! Fleeing in terror, Adam fights his way past the reanimated cultists and races away in his car; however, the demon pursues him and forces him off the road, spilling him out of the vehicle and driving him to maniacal insanity as it utters a single, gruesome word: “Papa”.

A group of kids and their doggy are violently attacked by monstrous grey aliens!

The film ends with another strong tale, “Slumber Part Alien Abduction” (Eisener), in which brothers Gary (Logan) and Randy (Cohen King) attach a miniature camera to their Yorkshire Terrier, Tank (Riley Eisener), to film their fun and games at their lakeside house. The boys delight in tormenting their older sister, Jen (Gracie), and her friends while their parents are away and are so caught up in their adolescent antics that they fail to notice a grey alien lurking beneath the lake and an ominous, deafening noise when they play a prank on Jen and her boyfriend, Zack (Jeremie Saunders), as they’re trying to have sex. Similarly, they also fail to pay much attention to a mysterious light show out over the lake but their tomfoolery is soon violently interrupted by the blaring noise, the power cutting out, and the presence of disturbing grey aliens outside their house. The monstrous beings grab the group, seal them in their sleeping bags, and try to drown them in the lake, with only Gary, Randy, Jen, and Tank surviving. Fleeing towards the strobing red and blue lights, they realise all too late that they’re running towards a trap rather than police assistance and both Jen and Randy are violently taken when Tank inadvertently attracts the aliens. Although Gary tries to flee with Tank up a ladder in the barn, they are ensnared by the aliens’ tractor beam and, in a distressing finale, Tank plummets to the ground and lies whimpering and dying as his family are abducted into the unknown.

The Nitty-Gritty:
The first thing you’ll notice about V/H/S/2 is the upgrade in camera quality; while there is still an abundance of nausea-inducing shaky cam, the quality of the picture and sound is much improved over the original. Next, there is a far more unique use of the camera perspective compared to the first film, which only really did something different with one of its stories; the ocular implant (which continues to show us the disturbing imagery even after Larry’s removed it), Mike’s helmet camera, using a film crew, and placing a small camera on a dog all allow for far more natural shots as I find the biggest issue with found footage films to be the believability that someone would hang onto a video camera during moments of chaos. The shorts also seem a bit longer this time and far more visceral and terrifying, and it’s pretty clear there the budget was slightly higher than in the last film (even if I wasn’t able to find out what the film’s budget actually was).

The film makes even better use of its format to provide unique and horrifying twists on familiar tropes.

As much as I enjoyed the original film, I found that I was more engaged and unsettled by each short story on offer in V/H/S/2. Additionally, the film brings a few unique ideas to tried-and-tested clichés through its found footage presentation; I’ve never seen a zombie film framed from the infected’s perspective quite like this, for example, and it’s deeply disturbing to see Mike succumb to his bite and return to unlife, feasting on the flesh of the living, and witness first-hand the degradation of his humanity into ravenous hunger and the tragic spark of his personality that drives him to end his monstrous existence. Even shorts that present recurring ideas in horror and science-fiction are given an unnerving slant thanks to the direction and presentation of the stories; “Phase I Clinical Trials” isn’t the first time the “haunted implant” story has been told but the presentation of the spirits as vengeful, malevolent phantoms really adds an extra punch to the story and we’ve all seen alien abduction films before but rarely are grey aliens depicted so monstrously. Roaring, clutching, and clawing at their prey, and constantly accompanied by blinding lights and ear-splitting sounds, the greys are at their most horrific and seeing them mercilessly abduct the children and cause the painful and heart-wrenching death of their dog is particularly unnerving.

The film’s scares and presentation definitely benefit from an increased budget.

As I mentioned, though, my favourite piece of the film is “Safe Haven”. This one may put off many viewers since not only is much of it told through the use of subtitles but it touches upon uncomfortable themes of suicide, maniacal cults, and Satanic imagery. Still, the short is easily the most bloody and visceral of V/H/S/2 and its predecessor; while the goat-headed, winged demon is easily the short’s most impressive and ambitious effect, “Safe Haven” also includes zombies, heads and faces being blown off, a man being blown to pieces, and women being torn apart from the inside out. For fans of blood and gore, “Safe Haven” is a definite standout but, for me, it’s the unsettling imagery of the demon itself and the implications of the story that cause this piece to have the most impact. “Phase I Clinical Trials” and “Slumber Part Alien Abduction” are equally impactful but in different ways; making copious use of jump scares, loud noises, and lingering shots of disturbing monstrosities, these two definitely make an impression, meaning that “Tape 49” and “A Ride in the Park” are left as the film’s weakest entries (and even those are bolstered by a unique camera perspective and visceral gore).

The Summary:
Although I feel like I prefer V/H/S/2 overall compared to its predecessor, it’s difficult for me to favour one over the other as there are short stories in the first film that I enjoy quite a lot. Generally, I prefer to watch the two as a double feature, thereby experiencing the best that each has to offer, but it’s hard to deny that the presentation and visuals are much more appealing and improved in this sequel. Everything feels much more focused and less rough around the edges, with some interesting, fun, and unique takes on the massively overdone found footage genre. Not only that, but each of the stories on offer are genuinely disturbing; even those that draw from tried and tested horror clichés are given a distinctive slant to deliver an unsettling and memorable anthology experience. Honestly, V/H/S/2 is worth it for “Safe Haven” alone but there’s plenty for horror fans of all kinds to enjoy on offer here. Again, it’s not really a film focused on characters and is more geared towards unnerving audiences, and the abundance of gore, terrifying ghouls, monstrous aliens, and ravenous zombies definitely succeeds in that regard in my opinion. I’ve heard negative things about the subsequent films in the series but I have a real soft spot for these first two, especially the second film, and I definitely recommend them to fans of independent, gory, disturbing horror films who are looking for something both a little familiar and a little different.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Are you a fan of V/H/S/2? What did you think of it, especially compared to the original, and which of the short stories was your favourite? What did you think to the way the short stories put a unique slant on familiar themes? What did you think to the ways the film made use of their found footage genre and the obvious increase in budget? Would you like to see more anthology films and which anthology show is your favourite? What horror films are you watching this month in preparation for Halloween? Whatever you think about V/H/S/2, feel free to leave a comment below or on my social media and pop back next Monday for one last anthology film before Halloween!

Talking Movies: V/H/S

Talking Movies

Released: 5 October 2012
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence
Budget: $15 million
Kentucker Audley, Calvin Reeder, Hannah Fierman, Drew Sawyer, Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal, Norma C. Quinones, Bryce Burke, Helen Rogers, Daniel Kaufman, Tyler Gillett, and Nicole Erb

The Plot:
A gang of criminals is paid to ransack and old man’s (Frank Stack) house and finds a stack of VHS tapes, each one containing a gruesome horror story in the form of found footage. These depict a group of friends looking to make an amateur porn video and crossing paths with a demonic succubus, a couple on a road trip who encounter a strange girl, a group of friends lured into the woods to confront a supernatural entity, a university student who experiences paranormal activity in her flat, and four friends who run afoul of a cult performing an exorcism.

The Background:
Since I grew up watching The Outer Limits (1995 to 2002) and am a big fan of movies like Creepshow (Romero, 1982) and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (Harrison, 1990), I have quite a soft spot for anthology films, especially those involving science-fiction and horror. V/H/S was the brainchild of Brad Miska, the creator of Bloody Disgusting, who reached out to the directors and creative minds he had met through his website about contributing to a horror anthology. Capitalising on the success of the found footage genre, the creators were given complete reign to submit whatever proposals they have for the project. V/H/S premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it was positively received, and even got a limited theatrical release. Generally, V/H/S received mixed reviews; while some praised the film’s consistently high quality, others took issue with the concept’s execution, though its $1.9 million gross was enough to finance two sequels, a spin-off, and an eventual reboot of sorts.

The Reviews:
Like Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, V/H/S is an anthology film made up of a framing narrative and several short horror stories so it only makes sense to review each one individually before talking about the overall film, which means that this review will be structured a little differently from my usual ones.

A gang of miscreants are stalked by a zombie while they view macabre videotapes.

“Tape 56” (Wingard) is probably the weakest of all the short stories included in V/H/S but there’s a reason for that; it’s merely the frame narrative that follows a gang of criminals as they record themselves doing stupid shit around the city while dressed like “gangsters”. They drive around at high speeds, accost a couple and forcibly pull a girl’s top up, smash windows and damage and deface property, try to make amateur sex tapes, and generally act like a bunch of complete douchebags. They get a bit more than they bargained for, however, when Gary (Bruckner) says they can get huge score but simply breaking into an old man’s house and stealing a VHS tape, only to find a dead body in the house and stacks upon stacks of the defunct media cassettes. While the others search the house looking for the objective, Brad (Adam Wingard) stays behind and watches the short films that make up the rest of the film; between each story, the film cuts back to Brad to see his reaction and, as the film progresses, Brad mysteriously disappears, leaving Rox (Audley) to take over the viewing. Although the thugs eventually decide to simply take all of the tapes, the old man’s corpse disappears from the background and the shit-kicking assholes are left to be are torn apart by the zombified homeowner.

Three friends are horrified to find they’ve brought a ravenous succubus back to their hotel room!

“Amateur Night” (Bruckner) is easily the stand-out short of the film since it went on to inspire a spin-off movie; however, while I do consider it to be a great opening story for the movie, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was the best of them. Shane (Mike Donlan), Patrick (Joe Sykes), and Clint (Sawyer) are three friends who have rented a hotel room and plan to hit the nightclubs and brings girls back there to film a porno using special video glasses worn by Clint. While Clint is unsure about the deception, his two loudmouth frat-boy friends are insistent on going through with the plan and waste no time in hitting up Lisa (Jas Sams) and successfully convincing her to go back to their hotel room while Clint catches the attention of shy Lily (Fierman), a timid, mousy girl who approaches him and says that she “likes [him]”. The four head back to the hotel room, with the three fiends completely rat-assed; Lisa is so out of it that she passes out soon after they get back and, though she continues trying to awkwardly seduce Clint, Lily soon finds herself the target of Shane and Patrick. Hurt and disgusted that his friends would take advantage of a girl he was interested in, Clint locks himself in the bathroom so he doesn’t have to watch and record the threesome but his shock at Lily’s cat-like demeanour and her clawed feet soon turns to terror when Patrick bursts in with a huge chunk taken out of his hand and Lily suddenly sprouts fangs and rips Shane to shreds! When Patrick tires to fight her, she shrugs off the attack and pounces on him with superhuman ferocity, drinking his blood and ripping off his genitals! Terrified, Clint flees into the stairwell, where he trips and falls and breaks his wrist; the blood-soaked succubus, her face split down the middle, approaches Clint and is so distraught at his fear of her that she unleashes a diabolical roar and transforms into a demonic winged creature and carries him off into the night to an unknown fate.

A couple are toyed with by a mysterious masked stalker while on a road trip.

“Second Honeymoon” (West) is probably the creepiest of all the short films if only because it seems like a plausible scenario that could happen in reality. Sam (Swanberg) and Stephanie (Takal) are a young married couple on a road trip to Arizona for their honeymoon; Stephanie is documenting the trip on her camera, which features such exciting stuff as getting “gas”, spotting bullet-riddled car husks, petting donkeys, and staying is dirty hotel rooms thanks to Sam not reserving better lodgings. When they visit a Wild West-themed resort, Stephanie is told by an animatronic that she’ll soon be reunited with a loved one, but Sam is disheartened when she later asks him not to record them doing sexual stuff in the hotel room. While trying to put him off, they are interrupted when a strange young girl (Kate Lyn Sheil) knocks on their door and asks them for a ride in the morning. Creeped out by the incident (and the girl, whom Sam found weirdly intimidating), Sam chooses to worry about it in the morning; while they’re sleeping, however, a masked stranger enters the room without them noticing, caresses Stephanie with a switchblade, steals $100 from Sam’s wallet, and washes his toothbrush in the toilet bowl in an incredibly unsettling scene. The next day, after brushing his teeth with the soiled toothbrush (!), the girl is nowhere to be seen and the couple get into an argument when Sam accuses Stephanie of taking the money; Sam insinuates that it’s not the first time she’s done something like that but, though this creates some tension, they are still able to enjoy themselves when they visit the Grand Canyon. Back at the hotel room, Sam suggests stopping off in Las Vegas the next day but, unfortunately for him, he never gets that far as he’s stabbed through the neck with the switchblade and chokes on his own blood when the stranger returns to the room that night. The short then ends with a shot of Stephanie making out with the stranger, revealed to be the young girl from the previous night, and then continuing on her journey with her lover.

Wendy lures her friends to the woods to bring out a supernatural killer.

In “Tuesday the 17th” (McQuaid), Wendy (Quinones) takes her new friends Joey Brenner (Drew Moerlein), Samantha (Jeannine Yoder), and Spider (Jason Yachanin) on her annual trip to a lake in a nearby secluded forest. Each of her friends are confused by Wendy’s traditional excursion out to the woodlands, and the fact that she has told each one a different story to get them up there. As they explore the woods, the camera sporadically glitches out and images of mutilated corpses are flashed onto the screen, which are made all the more disturbing by Wendy’s increasingly unsettling behaviour; she becomes stoic and morose, sullenly regards areas where the images appear, and promises Joey that they’re all going to die. As they relax with some weed by the lake, Wendy tells them that she experienced a series of gruesome murders there a few years ago and the culprit was never caught; though they laugh it off as a joke, Samantha is soon killed when a supernatural entity (Burke) that resembles a screen glitch kills her with a knife to the back of the head and then stabs Spider repeatedly in the forehead. After Joey turns down Wendy’s advances, she callously reveals that she lured them all there as bait for the entity, who slices Joey’s throat and relentlessly pursues Wendy through the woods. Determined to trap, kill, and identify the killer, Wendy lures it into a bear trap but the camera cannot register it as anything other than a glitched series of tracking errors; the entity escapes Wendy’s death traps, beats and eviscerates her, and as she lies quivering she too begins to glitch out.

Emily finds herself unwittingly manipulated by James into being an alien incubator.

“The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” (Swanberg) mixes things up a bit by being framed entirely as a video chat between Emily (Rogers) and her boyfriend James (Kaufman), who is training to be a doctor. Initially, she’s mainly concerned about a strange bump on her arm but her troubles escalate after she moves into her new apartment and begins experiencing strange noises and disturbances. James is sceptical and believes that she was merely dreaming but, when she calls him in the dead of night, he sees a child-like entity rush in and slam the door shut. Although he dismisses this in the morning, Emily shares how she had a similar haunting experienced as a child that left her needing surgery and complains that the pain in her arm is worsening. The next night, James watches and guides as Emily tries to confront the entity, which appears as a small, neon green creature and the experiences only distress her more when she learns from her landlord that no children have ever lived in the building and no one has ever died in there either. James is distressed to find Emily digging at the lump on her arm with a meat fork similar to how she permanently scarred herself cutting into her leg as a child and promises to check it out in person as soon as possible. Ashamed and increasingly horrified, Emily agrees to stop and wash it off and then asks James to be her eyes while she tries to communicate with the ghosts, but when she’s knocked unconscious by the children he rushes into the room and slices open her torso to extract an alien embryo! Revealed to have been working with the aliens and harming Emily for years in order to incubate their alien/human hybrids, James promises to stand by Emily even after she’s been diagnosed as schizoaffective but is also shown to be having similar manipulative talks with another female incubator (Liz Harvey).

Four friends save a girl from a cult but find themselves beset by all manner of restless spirits.

Finally, “10/31/98” (Radio Silence) follows friends Tyler (Gillett), Chad (Chad Villella), Matt (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin), and Paul (Paul Natonek) as they head to a Halloween party at a friend’s house while dressed in ridiculous costumes. Unbeknownst to them, they end up at the wrong house but simply believe that they’re the first ones to arrive; after sneaking inside, they soon experience paranormal events (such as flickering lights, ghostly reflections, and hands reaching out of the walls to grab them) but foolishly believe that it’s all part of the experience and that the party has been themed around a haunted house. When they head up into the attic in search of the party, though, they find a girl (Erb) suspended from the rafters and at the mercy of a group of men performing an exorcism by chanting “Cast him down”. The friends join in, believing that it’s all part of the fun, and anger the cult’s leader (John Walcutt) in the process; the interruption causes the cult members to be brutally manhandled by an unseen force and, though the friends initially flee, Tyler convinces them to go back to help the girl. After freeing the girl from her bonds, they are beset by all manner of terrifying phenomena as ghostly arms try to grab them, objects are tossed around at them, handprints appear on the walls, and the very house itself closes up in an attempt to trap them. While they manage to escape through the basement as the demonic poltergeists rampage through the house, their car suddenly stops across a set of train tracks and the girl teleports out into the road, walking away surrounded by crows as a train races towards the car and its trapped inhabitants.

The Nitty-Gritty:
If you’re not really a fan of found footage films then V/H/S probably isn’t going to be the movie for you; the entire film is shot using handheld, low quality cameras, meaning that there’s a lot of shaky camera movements, wild sweeping panning, film jumps and visual glitches, and scratchy, low quality sound permeating the whole movie. Additionally, this isn’t really a film where you learn a great deal about the characters; each short has a few minutes to show a snapshot of its characters lives and set up the scenario they’ve been placed in, so it’s not really an in-depth character study or with any goal other than to disturb and unsettle its audience.

V/H/S uses the found footage genre to put an intense twist on well-known horror tropes.

In this regard, V/H/S/ largely succeeds; each of the shorts is distinct enough so that there’s something here for even the most hardened horror fans. From a bloodthirsty succubus to a glitchy phantasm and demonic poltergeists, there’s plenty of variety on offer in V/H/S and even if you don’t like one or more of the stories there’s probably going to be at least one that leaves you a little intrigued. Personally, I enjoy elements from all of the stories; I like seeing the asshole gang in the framing story get beheaded and picked off by the old man, the design of the succubus is downright disturbing and it’s easy to see how the concept was expanded upon into its own movie, and the glitch ghost is a terrifying concept that puts a unique spin on the cliché “haunted woods” setting. The idea of a wife conspiring against their husband is a palpable horror, as is that of aliens taking the form of disquieting child ghosts, and coercing a human into helping them breed disgusting hybrids is as disturbing as it is sickening for James’ wilful manipulation of the girls he influences. Similarly, while “10/31/98” is probably the most cliché of all the shorts, it’s a suitably tense and discomforting end to the film.

One of the most memorable parts of the film is how bleak and brutal its stories are.

Indeed, one of the things I really enjoy about V/H/S is how spectacularly bleak it is; basically every character dies and each short ends with the suggestion that a greater evil, be it supernatural or extraterrestrial, exists to threaten humanity in some way. “Tape 56” has startling implications in that it suggests that all of these events happened in this fictional world and I enjoy how each short leaves a lot of questions and loose ends for audience interpretation; like, who was that girl and what was the deal with her relationship with Samantha? Where did the glitch ghost come from and how did Wendy escape from it? How long have those aliens been implanting their hybrids into unassuming young women? For me, it’s all very imaginative and leads to some fun speculation; additionally, the entire film is like a series of short, sharp nightmares that set up a simple premise with realistic characters and then goes out of its way to be as unsettling and disturbing as possible. In this regard, the shaky camera really helps escalate the tension and the horror, as does the low camera quality; everything feels as it would if we were experiencing it first-hand and not being able to properly make out things being seen or heard onscreen just makes things more chaotic and horrific.

The Summary:
V/H/S is quite the bold experiment; by roping in a bunch of amateur filmmakers can giving them free reign to craft short, sharp snippets of horror, Brad Miska delivered quite the macabre collection that would be a treat for any horror fan. Sure, found footage films and shaky cam filming is an overdone cliché in this day and age as it seemed like everyone was doing it at one point, and it can be a nauseating and confusing filmmaking method but, in certain situations, it’s appropriate, especially when it’s done well. For my money, V/H/S uses the technique to great effect; anthology films aren’t too common these days, potentially because it can be difficult crafting the individual stories and for audiences to properly connect with the ever-changing narratives, but I find them endlessly entertaining. The short horror stories on show here provide just enough to unsettle, terrify, and inspire personal interpretation and imagination regarding each scenario and the greater world on show, and I found even the film’s rougher edges to be all part of its charm so I definitely feel like V/H/S has been unfairly overlooked in the pantheon of independent horror.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever seen V/H/S? What did you think of it and which of the short stories was your favourite? How did you interpret the worlds presented in the short stories and which of them would you have liked to see expanded upon? Are you a fan of anthology narratives? If so, would you like to see more and which anthology show is your favourite? What horror films are you watching this month in preparation for Halloween? Whatever you think about V/H/S, feel free to leave a comment by signing up or visiting my social media and pop back next Monday for my review of the sequel!