Movie Review: V/H/S (2012)

This is another film that was brought to my attention a while ago, this time through the wonders of Twitter and its many awesome horror fans. I watched the trailer on YouTube then instantly watched it again and then again and over the course of the next week or so, continued to watch in awe as I wondered if this could be as good in reality as the trailer made it seem...

Months passed and although I continued to refresh my memory by watching the many updated trailers that came by, I was thwarted in my attempts to watch it as being in the UK, all VOD opportunities seemed to be in the States. But, my time would come! I was browsing around randomly on Amazon when my gaze was diverted by a familiar VHS cover. A patient wait until the end of January and V/H/S was finally in my possession!

It is so difficult to review an anthology because they differ so dramatically! One can influence my decision and consciousness greatly while others may drag it down somewhat. I suppose the best way to do it would be to individually break it down and review each one on its own merits as standalone short films and then as a whole.

So here we go.

The Narrative - Tape 56
Dir. Adam Wingard

V/H/S is presented as a found footage film centred around a group of young criminals and their underhanded money making exploits including filming exposure porn and selling it on the internet. An opportunity arises that sets them the task of breaking into a house to steal a VHS tape. Too good to be true maybe but the group set off to complete the job. Upon arrival at the house, they discover the corpse of a man sitting in front of several TV’s with nothing but static white noise being played. Free to roam the house uninterrupted, the group split and search for the VHS tapes while one member remains in the room. He plays the tape that is still in the Video player and thus begins the anthology of horror shorts that make up V/H/S. While they watch the VHS tapes laid before them, the film cuts back to this as a running front story with the rest played behind. 

Although this was the most annoying of the collection, it was mainly for personal reasons. I just don’t connect with criminals and some of the things they do make me dislike them even more! With all that out of the way, the acting was good and the suspense that builds as shot to shot we are invited further into a sick world of snuff films and corpses is brilliant.

Rating: 6.5

Amateur Night
Dir. David Bruckner

This is the first of the shorts that is presented to us and it follows Shane, Patrick and Clint as they get ready for a night on the pull, to put it bluntly. From their rented motel room, Clint tests out his new glasses which are fitted with a hidden camera. Their objective is to proposition some unsuspecting girls and invite them back to their motel room in order to make a sex tape. 

They head out and soon liaise with a group of young ladies who are just as “up for it” as they are. However, one girl, Lily who takes an instant shine to Clint seems to stand out from the crowd but for the most bizarre reasons.

As an introduction to this format, this segment serves its purpose very well. The acting is actually very good, with special mention to Hannah Fierman whose portrayal of the eerily played Lily is brilliant! 

On the whole very enjoyable and creepy even if the conclusion was slightly disappointing.

Rating: 7

Second Honeymoon
Dir. Ti West

Second Honeymoon follows Sam and Stephanie as they embark on a road trip across America, filming their adventure with a handheld camera to recount their experiences along the way. An unexpected and off-camera encounter with a stranger leads the pair to be quite wary about a young woman who had asked for a lift. In the middle of the night, the camera zips to life however, we are not being held by either of the young couple. Instead, we are watching as an intruder creepily records their own exploits as the pair sleep. The morning brings a new day and the cycle continues! 

This is perhaps the most simplistic segment of the collection but this by no means is detrimental to the directors’ ability to conjure up intimate fear at a primal level! Great camera work and a twist ending help make Second Honeymoon enjoyable in its own way.

Rating: 7

Tuesday the 17th
Dir. Glenn McQuaid

Joey, Spider, Samantha and Wendy embark on camping trip. Wendy has clearly been before as she guides the group around the woods, as she does so a few choice memories intrude on their seemingly picturesque trip. Wendy eventually reveals that a murderer killed her friends in these woods and he is still at large! The others suspect she may be pulling their legs so laugh it off and continue on. However it soon becomes apparent that something is lurking in the woods and Wendy may be looking for revenge!

As with others, there is a definite underlying sexual tension in this piece but while that may detract from other films of similar tendencies, which is not the case here. Characterisation is the biggest factor in this segment as back stories and empathy is gathered in equal measure. As such, Tuesday the 17th feels like a movie I’ve seen before, many times. 

Possibly the least original in concept but one of the most visually impressive examples of such concept I have seen. Camera tricks a plenty as this little segment provides the blood soaked gore fest of the collection!

Rating: 7

The Sick thing that happened to Emily when she was younger
Dir. Joe Swanberg

This segment follows Emily and her video chat exploits with her doctor to be boyfriend, James. The pair discuss many things, among them a strange bump on Emily’s arm and the fact Emily thinks her apartment may be haunted. As they talk via video link, Emily attempts to prove the haunting by showing James first hand. Things escalate and the haunting may be the least of Emily’s worries!

This starts off being very similar to a short film I watched via a Horror app, Popcorn Horror which was called Chatter, in which a young woman angry with her long distance boyfriend decides to chat to strangers via video link. Anyway, back to The sick thing... Emily’s fear and anxiety is perfectly captured by Helen Rogers and the scares provided in this one are next to the best offered by this collection. However, much like Amateur Night, the ending was a slight let down but the rest more than make it enjoyable.

Rating: 8

Dir. Radio Silence

The sixth and final segment see’s friends Chad, Matt, Tyler and Paul setting out to a Halloween party complete with costumes. They head to the party but somehow get a little lost and end up breaking into the wrong house. A few supernatural occurrences prompt the group to assume they’re in a Halloween attraction and decide to go with it. As they search the house, they wind up in the attic where a group of men ritualistically chant with a young woman bound and suspended from the roof. The men don’t take too kindly to the intrusion and begin assaulting the woman. A series of bizarre events make the cult seem like child’s play as the group of friends must now escape a nightmare!

The final and best of the group, scares a plenty, jumps and even a few laughs. 10/31/98 exceeds all other segments for one simple reason, its ending! Others ended like the writer had run out of idea’s or were trying to shock but this one ends how a really good feature would end.

Brilliantly acted and scary!

Rating: 8.5

All in all, V/H/S stands as a brilliant example of indie film making and real horror in its rawest form. While some segments may have been better than others, the whole makes for an extremely enjoyable 2 hour experience. A quick scan on Wikipedia lead me to a comment made by Variety which had suggested that the film was too long and maybe should have relegated some parts to a DVD extra. I have to disagree with this comment, the length of a chronicle of stories such as this is perfect as it is, any shorter and all you have is a made for TV special or something along those lines.

Each director had their own visions to put out into the world for us to enjoy and as I said, some were better than others but each one was enjoyable in its own special way. I even loved the fact the video was extremely grainy in parts and sometimes even skipped several seconds. It made the whole thing feel very genuine! 

A perfect example of what I would normally call Random Horror however, this randomness has started to reach out and evolve. Random Horror that has grown and twisted its way into the consciousnesses of a mass audience and I have to say I am enjoying this new era of Horror. Keep it coming! If you’re on the fence about this one or having second thoughts about watching it, I would say just go for it. It gives a great account of modern horror and sets it in a brilliantly blood soaked awe of anticipation, anxiety and fear!

V/H/S impressed me so much, it will most certainly become one I will watch again and again....

Here’s looking forward to the sequel: V/H/S/2

Released: 2012
V/H/S (2012) on IMDb
My Rating:-
Segmented Average Score: 7.3
As a whole: 8

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