The found footage horror trend that kicked off some thirteen years ago with The Blair Witch Project had already worn out its welcome some time back. But that didn't stop the ensemble of directors behind V/H/S from trying to do something new with it. They've put together an omnibus presentation of short horror pieces linked together by a promising premise: a group of video-making douchebags break into a house searching for a rare videocassette and, finding it difficult to distinguish the rare one among the many that litter the place, begin watching what's on multiple vhs tapes.
Unfortunately, V/H/S ends up being the definition of a mixed bag and there's very little worth recommending here. The directors have squandered the chance to have the shorts and the interlocking premise in the house relate to each other. Perhaps worse are the stupid, lewd, and poorly drawn characters contained throughout the film as a whole. It doesn't take long before watching the film begins to feel like being trapped in a corner by an unpleasant party guest. On the plus side, the misogynistic tone and lazy writing of the introductory segment (directed by Adam Wingard) does greatly diminsh one's expectations, so if you stay in your seat for the remainder, it's your own damn fault.
If you're hoping for surprises, you've stumbled into the wrong movie. Most of these films go exactly where you'd expect them to. Probably the best thing here is Ti West's Second Honeymoon, which follows a couple's adventures on a road trip. The two are stalked at night by a dangerous and mysterious stranger who invades their hotel room as they sleep.
West's reputation as one of the best new horror directors on the scene is well deserved after his work on the excellent The House of the Devil and his much underrated follow-up The Innkeepers. Most folks who see V/H/S will likely have been drawn to it because of West's participation. But it turns out that being constrained to a reduced running time doesn't exactly play to his strengths. As his features have proven, he's at his best when given the time to slowly ramp up tension. Second Honeymoon feels like it's just beginning to develop into something when it reaches its rushed and unsatisfying conclusion.
Directed by the video collective Radio Silence, 10/31/98 also works better than much of the rest of V/H/S, if only because it finally breaks free from expectation by the end of its story, offering up a few twists to an otherwise basic story of some moronic dudes entering the wrong house one Halloween night.
The rest is all middling (David Bruckner's Amateur Night and Joe Swanberg's The Strange Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Young) to downright awful (Glenn McQuaid's truly terrible, glitch-happy Tuesday the 17th). But even the better moments of the film are muddied by displays of infantile male sexuality, an overreliance on sharp objects piercing flesh, and the boring predictability of it all. That last failure makes for an exceedingly flat viewing experience, one that had me constantly wanting to check my watch as the film dragged on; never a good sign.
V/H/S begins its run at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, October 5th. More info available here.
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