Thursday, January 22, 2015

Movie Review: V/H/S

 I do not believe I can overstate this.  I enjoy anthologies.  Whether on film or in books, the "short-story" is something I almost always find entertaining.  In horror films, the formula for an anthology is fairly simple; present an over-arching story in which the characters are somehow introduced to or involved in a series of stories within the story.  These stories need only be related tenatively; ie they are all collected in one book or witnessed by one person, etc.  V/H/S follows this formula in a manner that is a little hard to swallow.  A group of thrill-seekers who are more than willing to flaunt the law are hired to retrieve a VHS tape from a house.  When they get to the house, they find a dead old man and literally hundreds of VHS tapes.  They are not certain what they are looking for, so while they explore the home for clues, some of the crew watches the tapes.  

 That is probably the only ham-handed aspect of this film.  If you have the means to move all the tapes (as it appears during the film they do), then move all the tapes and get out of the house.  Let the person who hired you figure out which tape is which, just get paid.  However, if they did that, we would not have much of a film.

 So, while the thieves try to find their tape, we get to watch along with them.

Maybe the old man went for a beer.
 Tape 56

 This is the book-end story arch of the film.  A group of young criminals film themselves while committing crimes, including assaulting women for "reality porn".  They are offered an opportunity to upgrade their criminal efforts, and are hired to steal a VHS tape from a house.  Inside, the discover a dead old man and hundreds of unmarked tapes.  While they look for clues as to which tape they were sent to retrieve, some of the crew sets to watching the tapes.  While they watch, things begin to happen.  Members of their crew turn-up dead.  The corpse of the old man vanishes and re-appears.  Instead of getting out of the house, they soldier on, and continue to watch the films.  Of all the stories in the movie, this is the least satisfying.

Something crazier than normal with Lily.
 Amateur Night

 Three friends are out to make an amateur porn in a motel room with a special pair of glasses fitted with a hidden video recorder. Clint, the man selected to wear the glasses, is not as enthusiastic about the effort, but the three manage to pick up two women, Lisa and Lily.  Lily acts a little oddly, somewhat reluctant and almost naive about the proceedings at the bar where she is picked-up by the trio and saying little more than "I like you." to Clint.

When they get to the motel room, things begin to get even weirder with Lily, who is obviously more than what she seems.  Her oddness quickly goes from being neurotic to something horribly alien, and we are treated to a first person view of the nightmare made manifest.  

See through is spookier than just a mask.
 Second Honeymoon

 Sam and Stephanie are going out west for their second honeymoon.  They are filming one another as they visit the Grand Canyon and take-in the sights.  One evening at the hotel, a girl tries to convince Sam to give her a ride the next day, which he refuses.  Later, someone is seen breaking into their room and stealing money from Sam's wallet.  Sam initially accuses Stephanie, but it later becomes clear that something else is stalking them.

 This story had no supernatural elements, other than a mechanical fortune-teller predicting that Stephanie would soon be reunited with her love.  It was a very well done psychological twister.

A monster that makes you think your DVD player is broken.
Tuesday the 17th

 Wendy invites three of her friends on a camping trip, when at the campsite she informs them that the woods surrounding the site have a reputation for mysterious disappearances and murders.  At first they think she is just trying to scare them until something attacks them. The "Glitch" cannot be filmed as anything more than a "tracking error" on video, though it seems to have a human figure using a knife.

 Wendy had been to the woods with friends a year before, and was the only survivor of the attack.  She has returned to kill the monster that killed her friends, using her new friends as bait.  She has laid a number of traps in the woods, and desperately tries to film the creature as it tries to kill her.

Darwin Award Nominee.
 The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger

 Emily enjoys video-chatting and sex-camming with her doctor/boyfriend, James. Part of their discussion involves a mysterious bump on her arm that is similar to one she had when she suffered an accident as a child.  Emily believes her apartment may be haunted as she begins to hear and see strange things.  When she attempts to make contact with the entity, it attacks her and knocks her unconscious. 

 The reality of what is going on is far worse than she imagined.

Hopefully the tenants can get their deposit back for this.

 A group of friends out in costume on Halloween Night are going to a party, but end up at the wrong house.  When they discover that the house may be haunted, seeing strange phenomenon, they decide to just go with it and explore it further.  In the attack, they discover a group of religious fanatics apparently attempting to exorcise a woman tied to the beam there.  When they join in with the chants of "Cast you down!", they fanatics attack them.  The poltergeist phenomenon becomes more violent, and the group decides to rescue the woman, facing both the fanatics and the powerful poltergeist.

 Despite the issues with the book-end story, V/H/S was incredibly well done.  Special effects are all top-notch, the writing and acting were excellent, and the viewer is drawn in to each story thanks to the various ways each incorporate a first-person perspective.  Each story also has a twist ending, leaving you wanting to know more and asking questions.  Definitely worth seeing.

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