V/H/S Review

VHS ReviewBy Adam P. Cray, MoreHorror.com

V/H/S Movie Review

13 years have passed since The Blair Witch Project introduced audiences to the shaky-cam wonders of the “Found Footage” universe. We’ve seen a recent resurgence of this horror subgenre with the success of 2009’s Paranormal Activity (review) and its subsequent sequels. Now, 2012 brings us V/H/S, “Found Footage”’s latest and possibly one of its greatest.

There’s much fun to be had with V/H/S as long as you can suspend your disbelief to “Found Footage’s Cardinal Rule”: No matter how much danger you are in, you must keep filming. The flick begins with a blue screen and a PLAY logo, a familiar image from the VHS heyday. Then we’re on to director Adam Wingard’s segment, “Tape 56”, where a trio of bad dudes have been hired to find a mysterious VHS tape in the house of an elderly man.

They film themselves breaking into the house and soon discover the old guy dead in his chair, surrounded by staticky TV screens. To make matters worse, there are stacks and stacks of VHS tapes to go through. They begin watching the tapes one by one and our film takes a turn into unchartered, “Found Footage” anthology territory.

The first short “Amateur Night” follows three drunkards during a night of wild barhopping. One of them wears eyeglasses wired with a micro video camera in hopes that the trio produce a sex tape with unsuspecting drunk bar babes. The cam gets a bloody eyeful, when one of the two girls they bring back turns out to be far from human! The wearable camera is one of the smartest conventions employed by director David Bruckner. It lends a logical plausibility to “Amateur Night” whereas most Found Footage flicks have characters that stand around filming when they should be running (see Found Footage’s Cardinal Rule).

The next story, “Second Honeymoon”, follows a young couple on a desert road trip as they’re stalked by a mysterious hooded woman. Writer/director  Ti West keeps us in slow-burning suspense as he’s recently done with his features The Innkeepers (review) and House of the Devil. Well-written dialogue and natural performances by actors Joe Swanberg and Sophia Takal deliver us an authentic young couple in Sam and Stephanie. Ample time is spent getting to know them as people, so when the weirdness seeps in, we feel for them that much more.

Writer/director Glenn McQuaid’s segment “Tuesday the 17th” starts off as an homage to the classic Friday the 13th films, with Wendy, Joey, Samantha, and Spider headed to the isolated woods for an afternoon of fun in the sun. They’re soon savagely stalked by a creature seen only through their videocamera as a large apparition formed by video interference and static.  Please note: the above description does “The Glitch” little justice and that’s what’s creepiest about this segment’s killer: some of the scariest things in life are those you can’t describe!

The Found Footage fun continues with “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” by director Joe Swanberg. This entire short is a series of video calls by James and Emily (Daniel Kaufman and Helen Rogers). Emily is frightened by recent paranormal happenings in her apartment as are we when the figures start appearing in her video chat window. Effectively creepy and well-acted, “The Sick Thing…” is short, sweet, and super-scary!

A group of four costumed dudes wander into an empty house on “10/31/98”. What they believe to be a staged Halloween haunted house actually turns out to be a real haunted house harboring a religious cult! This fun, frightening short is the final of the self-contained stories in V/H/S and directors Radio Silence hit this horror flick home.

Finally back to our trio of “Tape 56” robbers as they’re ready to leave the house to find…the dead old guy has vanished!

V/H/S is a wild ride ‘til the very end and is overall, a mixed bag of good-to-great “Found Footage” horror shorts.

The five stories are expertly placed in the most effective order to keep us on our toes. While the editing and camerawork is at times excessively frenetic, it doesn’t detract from the dread and terror of this film.

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