It’s been a while since we’ve had a really good anthology film. Not since “Trick r Treat” have we had the horror fans had an anthology horror film that not only changed the game for the sub-genre, but made waves as a horror film, period. The Collective of indie filmmakers that team to create “V/H/S” really do resort to the found footage genre for the sake of some sense of believability. That and the format is pretty cost effective, when you think about it. In either case, The Collective is allowed to be very creative and unusual in a film about a series of short vignettes viewed through old V/H/S tapes.
“V/H/S” has a nifty framework for telling it stories, focusing on a group of young thugs who film everything they do through their camcorder. From sex, violence, and vandalism, they revel in filming their crimes, and are asked to steal a rare V/H/S from an anonymous party who has promised to help their criminal careers advance beyond mere thefts and assaults. “V/H/S” and its stories revolve primarily around hubris, and the chaos that can come from being too confident in circumstances that provide humility and common sense more often than not. Though every segment enlists the handheld camera or voyeur format, much of what’s seen is almost always implied and there’s never any actual exposition that delays the pacing or bloodshed at any time. All we know most times is that the characters willingly walk in to a situation and then suddenly wish they hadn’t. It’s surprising that a year that gave us “The Devil Inside” and the pseudo found footage yawner “Chernobyl Diaries” offers up an indie installment of this format that uses the gimmick to its advantage.
Much of what is implied is absolutely terrifying, and to compensate for what isn’t explained, we’re given something to take away from watching the film. I guarantee audiences will be discussing certain segments for a while. Easily my favorite segment is “Amateur Night” from David Bruckner. The segment that defines “V/H/S,” it’s sadly impossible to top, as a trio of guys with an eye glasses camera look to bring a girl to their motel room to engage in rough sex with. Upon bringing back two women, they learn the meeker more fragile girl is a brutally monstrous force to be reckoned with and the blood begins to pour. Filled with searing tension and incredibly spooky moments of horror, this is a topper with an incredible final scene that’s never quite surpassed. Director Ti West offers a more realistic and ambiguous spooky tale called “Second Honeymoon” that ends on various questions but a definitive answer on what the purpose of this couple’s troublesome honeymoon meant all along.
The segment that comes close to be even scarier than “Amateur Night” is “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger.” Told through skype cameras, this is a short and sweet little narrative that also relies on the ambiguous and what we don’t see to explore a story that’s demented, and incredibly terrifying. Sure, like every anthology, “V/H/S” has its problems and pitfalls. “Saturday the 17th” is entertaining but ultimately incredibly confusing and sheer nonsense, while “10/31/98” feels more like a polished viral ad from some guys with a neat computer than an actual segment for a horror film with a story.
While “V/H/S” definitely won’t change the way we think of the genre, it does in grab a hold of the modern horror device of the found footage element and give is an extra boost of adrenaline with a logical framework that will keep us wondering what’s coming next and what horrors await us in the darkness. I definitely foresee a potential franchise, as the finale left me hungry for more. It definitely doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but at the end of the day “V/H/S” is still a solid and entertaining anthology film that takes the found footage format and uses it to the best of its ability. I had a spooky good time with it, and I hope the sequel serves up more fun and grue.