The anthology horror movie has seen many hits and misses over the years. As has the “found footage” film. So bringing the two together to make a “found footage” anthology horror movie could either be the best or worst idea ever. Thankfully, with the talent behind and in front of the camera, it’s not the worst. I’ll admit that I left the cinema as the credits rolled with a small amount of disappointment festering within me. The film had been THE movie I didn’t want to miss at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2012 and that kind of anticipation never helps when the lights go down and the curtains part. So I didn’t write up my review immediately. Nope. I waited a good few hours, I went out and had a nice meal, I considered the final movie weighed up against my own expectations. Here’s the thing, I found it a film very easy to keep mulling over. Despite the fact that almost every section seemed to end with a whimper rather than a bang, I knew that I would enjoy watching the film again and taking in all of the details laced throughout the thing.
In case you haven’t heard about the premise by now then here it is – a bunch of crooks are tasked with entering a household and collecting a videotape without disturbing the owner. They get inside the house easily enough but find more than one videotape. Which one is the one they need to take away? The only way to find out is to watch them. The first tape features a fun night out with some lads who are hoping to score before things get a bit strange and bloody. The second tape shows a young couple on the road, filming their adventures … while being unnerved by a mysterious stalker. Tape three puts things firmly in teen slasher territory, with one or two fantastic twists. Tape number four concerns things that go bump in the night and tape number five concerns more things that do more than just go bump. And then we have the resolution of the wraparound tale.
The performances are decent, the special effects are consistently impressive (either achieved in-camera or so well created in post-production that you never stop to consider how it was all done while being caught up in the action) and the style of the movie really manages to recall those giddy days of running home from the video store with a particularly lurid, oversized, videotape in hand.
At first I thought that the movie was really overplaying its hand, with the quality of the recording and the nausea-inducing movement of the cameras, but in hindsight I have to admit that everything was put together pretty perfectly and that the nostalgia factor running through everything is as integral to the movie as the genre content.
The directors all seem to have a shared interest in messing with minds and creating questions as well as straight scares but they all manage to then make each section notably different from every other section. I could tell which “tape” came from Ti West and must admit that, once again, the director left me slightly underwhelmed. Personally, I felt that “Second Honeymoon” was the weakest of all of the stories but I soon forgot about it as I enjoyed the fun of the tale following on from it and everything continued to build with a fantastic, though fatally flawed, penultimate tale mixing some humour with great frights before hitting an absolute high point with a finale that ranks up there with the very best material that I’ve ever seen given this kind of treatment.
Yes, there are one or two moments that make you think “why would anyone keep filming this?” but, overall, the context is perfectly married to the content and this is one horror movie that shouldn’t disappoint the many horror fans who have been looking forward to it as long as I have. It’s slightly inconsistent (but what anthology movie isn’t?) but even the weaker moments tend to provide something of interest and there’s an admirable attempt to fit in a bit of everything for fans – jump scares, gore, psychological horror, gratuitous nudity, fake outs, etc.
I know that I’ll be buying V/H/S as soon as it hits … um … DVD.
V/H/S is showing on Thu 28 June (23:20) at Cameo 1 and Sat 30 June (22:00) at Filmhouse 1.
DIRECTOR: DAVID BRUCKNER, TI WEST, ADAM WINGARD, GLENN MCQUAID, JOE SWANBERG, RADIO SILENCE
WRITER: SIMON BARRETT, MATT BETTINELLI-OLPIN, DAVID BRUCKNER, TYLER GILLETT, JUSTIN MARTINEZ, GLENN MCQUAID, NICHOLAS TECOSKY, CHAD VILLELLA, TI WEST
CAST: CALVIN REEDER, LANE HUGHES, ADAM WINGARD, HANNAH FIERMAN, MIKE DONLAN, JOE SWANBERG, JAS SAMS, SOPHIA TAKAL, HELEN ROGERS
RUNTIME: 116 MINS APPROX