Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 148: V/H/S

Found footage has been a popular subgenre of Horror for quite awhile (ever since the Blair Witch Project). The immediacy of the experience puts the viewer in a fun position for experiencing horror as you are limited in what information you receive. You can only see what the camera chooses to shoot, which is usually guided by a human intelligence. In third person horror movies, the camera can be anywhere and show anything, making it kind of frustrating when it chooses not to show something. The shortcomings of budget and even sometimes acting can be hidden with a good found footage setup.

So it was only a matter of time before someone made a found footage anthology. This first volume includes Adam Wingard (who would go on to the make the Blair Witch sequel), Joe Swanberg, and Ti West as well as David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid and a group called Radio Silence.

The frame story, by Adam Wingard, is about a group of teen criminals who are hired to break into a creepy old house and retrieve a certain VHS tape. They find the owner dead in front of a stack of TVs and their watching of videos makes up the bulk of the movie. The ending is downright nonsensical but there is some good spooky stuff in the early going. I am not a big fan of the frame story.

The first real story is Amateur Night by Bruckner, who directed the excellent sort-of anthology Signal. This one is about a group of bros trying to get laid who have hidden cams in their glasses. They stumble across a shy, freaky girl who turns out to be hiding a secret. Bad things happen. Lots of people liked this segment so much it got its own spin-off movie (which I won't say the title of as it is a spoiler for this movie). I found all the characters hard to watch and painfully awful. I know this is all sort of the point but it didn't make it easier to sit through. One relatable character would have been nice.

The second story is Second Honeymoon by Ti West and it is barely a thumbnail of an idea. A couple traveling the west on a second honeymoon is stalked by an unknown force that films them while they sleep. The presentation is so short it doesn't really get a chance to escalate in a frightening way. Basically, this needed some more room to breathe.

Tuesday the 17th is the next one and it is directed by McQuaid, who also did the horror-comedy, I Sell the Dead. This one works as a meta-comedy because it involves a final girl returning to the woods where she survived an initial attack by a creature whose features are obscured by a tracking malfunction (like on an old VCR). The girl brings some jerks with her as cannon fodder for the creature so she can trap it and kill it. This one is clever enough and almost a commentary on the nostalgia of 80s slasher tropes. I did like the "glitch" effect.

The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When She Was Younger is directed by Joe Swanberg (who stars in the Second Honeymoon segment). It all takes place on skype as a young woman thinks her house is haunted and she notices a strange bump on her skin. I have to give credit for an original ending even if it is goofy as hell. Again, some moments here and there but nothing to write home about.

The last story, 10/31/98, is my favorite of the movie but gets almost no love online. The Radio Silence group filmed it and it tells a perfect little mini-story. Some teens get dressed up to go to a Halloween party and end up at the wrong house. When they stumble upon a bizarre ritual in the attic, things get frantic. There are some good, chilling special effects here. The ending is one of those classic horror things that just works for me.

As on all these, your mileage may vary but there is more here to like than dislike. I would give the whole thing a C+, maybe B-.

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