V/H/S combined six different directors perspectives in one ominous account of recovered film. The first short film titled “Tape 56” set up the premise for the rest of the movies, by making one character watch a series of VHS tapes that include the rest of the adventures. What followed was a horrendous anecdote of five tragic tales (six if you count “Tape 56”), in which I became a part of the action by watching the tapes first-handed. Each chronicle is like a dare to test your bravery, and persevere through the morbid collection until the end is reached.
“Tape 56” Directed by Adam Wingard
A group of thugs are hired to retrieve a VHS tape from a house in the middle of nowhere, by an anonymous party, for a large amount of money. What could possibly go wrong? “Tape 56” had a powerful beginning, containing a theme of Henry: The Portrait of a Serial Killer, but at the end I was left wanting more. I liked the feel of this film, but I thought that it lacked a sense of direction. It was definitely enjoyable and creepy, but it was also confusing. I gathered that they’re a group of misfits stealing a tape, but which one? And why does the watcher of the VHS tapes watch a different tape for each story? It’s called V/H/S, but it should’ve been called “V/H/Ss”.
“Amateur Night” Directed by David Bruckner
A group of young men obtained a pair of reading glasses, containing a small camera, which is nearly invisible to uninformed peers. They planned to use their new toy to film women, without their knowledge, during their intimate moments. What they didn’t know was that their latest conquest was hiding a deadly secret of her own. This film worked because it knew how to use the low quality of the VHS tapes to its advantage. It used some special effects and mostly makeup, but not too much to look fake, just enough to surpass the film’s grainy quality and pass for found footage. Hannah Fierman was sufficiently sinister as Lily, the quiet girl at the bar. Jason Yachanin was great, too, as Spider, the most innocent member of the group. The entire film carried an uneasiness about it, that was only amplified by the shocking finale. You feel like you know where it’s going, then suddenly director David Bruckner threw a wrench into the wheel.
“Second Honeymoon” Directed by Ti West
A young couple went on a road trip across the country to celebrate their second honeymoon. What started out as a serene getaway quickly transformed into the honeymoon from hell, when an uninvited guest began invading the couple’s motel room while they slept. Ti West is this generation’s Stanley Kuprick. His subtle, slow camera movements build up tension, which West is a pro at. This segment played on the fear of invasion of privacy. It was surprising how a film about a married couple’s vacation could keep you on edge throughout the entire film. The rigid tone that permeated the feature contrasted with the beautiful shots of landscape, and worked together to create an uncomfortable, yet ultimately satisfying picture. It was extremely realistic and shocking, yet the story was simple enough for the audience to follow and complex enough to care about the characters. Not to mention the ending was extremely horrifying.
“Tuesday the 17th” Directed by Glenn McQuaid
“You’re all gonna fucking die up here”. A few friends traveled to the woods in search of a cabin, promised by the female lead. But as they wandered farther and farther into the unknown, the group found that their companion had fatal intentions. This segment started out strong, but once the killer was shown, it lost its edge. The story was sad and relatable, and the defective camera that displayed distorted bodies was frightening, but the killer’s appearance really ruined it for the movie.
“The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger” Directed by Joe Swamberg
A young woman named Emily fretted over the substantial amount of paranormal activity that was active in her apartment. To comfort herself, she skyped with her Doctor boyfriend, who was in Michigan, and described the events that had taken place. Following his suggestion, she began calling him via the internet each time a spooky happening haunted her home. But how much help can a loved one offer when he isn’t even in the same state? Will his advice and promise of a trip home be enough to ward off evil spirits? I really didn’t care for this portion. The ending was so shocking and grotesque that it almost made up for the clearly computer animated ghosts, but it wasn’t enough. Every time the movie started to build tension, the fear was released by the presence of the ghosts. They just looked really fake and not scary at all. Also, it doesn’t really make sense that the viewer would be watching a skype video on a VHS tape. But even if that were to happen, how can one watch a video that wasn’t recorded? The boyfriend never remembers to record the calls, as he states several times, so how is anyone able to watch it? It was the only video amongst the group that didn’t fit the style or the storyline.
“10/31/98” Directed by Radio Silence
A few friends dressed up for Halloween night, and headed to a haunted house for a party. However, upon their arrival, they found that the decorated party house they were hoping for might have more mystical activity than they’d expected. I liked this film a lot. The house was a grim variety of rooms that only became more strange as the journey went on. I loved the hands coming out of the walls because it’s a simple trick that still works and isn’t used enough in scary movies. It also reminded me of Day of the Dead. This film showed “The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger” how to use cheap effects intelligently enough to still look real enough for a VHS quality tape.
I really liked the concept of V/H/S. It was a unique way to provide a new take on found footage, with an old school sense of sitting around a camp fire, and telling urban legends. It also felt like watching a demented version of Tales From the Crypt, if you replaced the skeleton with thugs and hand held cameras. The shaky camera does get a little old, but not enough to make you queasy, unless you have a weak stomach. Some videos are worse than others, though, such as “Tape 56” and “Tuesday the 17th”. On the plus side, it was great to see so many female villains in this film. Many horror flicks include a boy stalking his female prey, but this movie flipped the usual scenario and made the women the ones to cower down to. It’s not the first film to do this, in fact it’s actually becoming more and more common, which is a big step for the horror genre in the feminist direction. This was true for most of the segments, not including “The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger”. Overall, V/H/S was the scariest film I’ve seen so far this year. Even though all of the sections aren’t perfect, together they compose a memorable piece of cinema that can be watched over and over again.
Does the thought of waiting until October to see this movie for yourself make you want to kick the bucket? Fear not, fellow horror fans! V/H/S is now available On Demand, so grab a bucket of popcorn and dim the lights, but make sure you watch this one with a friend.