Distributor: Momentum Pictures
BBFC Classification: 18
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West, Adam Wingard
Starring: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Frank Stack, Jas Sams, Simon Barrett, Joe Swanberg
V/H/S is an anthology film made up of five found footage shorts plus a wraparound story. Having had a life on the film festival circuit in 2012 – including a showing at Film4 FrightFest in London in the summer of that year – the film managed to create something of a buzz amongst horror fans at the time, and given the involvement of a couple of key names and the nature of some of the content it is easy to see why.
Much has been made of the tone of V/H/S and its gratuitous use of nudity, and that is fair comment as there is plenty of flesh to see here (and not all of it female). Particularly during the Tape 56 wraparound story, which comes across like the world’s worst episode of Jackass, where the characters and overall tone are all pretty unlikeable and could probably be off-putting to many.
Persevere, though, and it levels out a bit but not before we get to see the lads’ night out setting of Amateur Night which, despite having a similar feel to the intro, does have some retribution against its main characters and is probably the best segment of the film, mainly because it is one of the most straightforward.
Where the film does start to lose momentum, though, is when it tries to be a bit more subtle and less obvious, and it is Second Honeymoon that comes off the worst in that respect. Directed by Ti West (The Innkeepers/The House of the Devil) it almost draws the film to a halt by having a build-up that doesn’t really go anywhere, which is a shame but it shows that Ti West’s formula of having a long setup that leads to a big reveal doesn’t translate well to the short story medium.
Tuesday the 17th and The Strange Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger are a little better, with the former going down the slasher route but with a little twist that doesn’t really work but at least there is visually something happening. The latter suits the found footage style the best out of all the shorts by being shot using a Skype-style video chat that has plenty of things going on in the background to keep an eye on.
But the final section, known as 10/31/98, is a much stronger affair, starting off a little like Amateur Night by having some lads getting geed up for a night out, only to find that they’re not the only occupants of the apparently empty house they’ve chosen to party in that night. Drawing inspiration from several sources the section takes its time to get going but once it gets to the reveal the tension is ratcheted up several notches with some really creepy and well-produced visuals.
So like most anthology films it is a bit of a mixed bag. When it works the results are very good, like in Amateur Night and 10/31/98 which both make use of the medium to great effect, but the sad truth is it just doesn’t work enough and the end result is inconsistent.
On paper the ideas are strong and pretty much most of the execution is solid enough but for some reason the film as a whole falls somewhat flat and even feels a little cold in places. No doubt if you saw it at one of the film festivals where it was shown with an eager crowd of rabid horror fans then the setting would have added the necessary atmosphere, but watching it at home on your own it feels like you’re only getting part of the experience. On the plus side, the places where it makes the most of the found footage/video camera style show that there is some merit to it and given the proper treatment there could be a damn good movie to be made in this way. Not sure it’s this one, though.
Special Features: Trailer, alternate ending, Behind the Scenes on ‘Amateur Night’ featurette, outtakes, cast & crew interviews.
UK Release Date: 28th January 2013