Movie Review: V/H/S / Director: Ti West, Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, David Bruckner, Radio Silence / Screenplay: Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, David Bruckner, Radio Silence / Starring: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Hannah Fierman / UK Release Date: TBC / US Release Date: (VOD) August 31st, (limited theatrical) October 5th
After an acclaimed run of the festival circuit, the 'found footage' film every horror fan has been waiting for is about to hit screens. Stories of audience members being treated by paramedics and others fleeing from the screening sound like William Castle-style ballyhoo, but has at least guaranteed interest. But does it live up to the hype?...
A group of thugs, whose idea of fun is filming their mindless vandalism and sexually abusing women are paid to break into an old man's house and steal a videocassette. When they are faced with a pile of tapes, they begin to watch some to try to find the right one. Thus is the lead in to the separate stories, played out anthology style, in the film. Each segment is handled by a different director and writing team, and each were given free rein over their subject and style, but with the stipulation that they all look home made.
Some sections work better than others, the wraparound story, Tape 56, directed by and starring Adam (A Horrible Way To Die) Wingard has its moments once the gang enter the house to find the tape. Amateur Night (David Bruckner) is fantastic, scary stuff and one of only two of the tales that you believe the camera would still be rolling and capturing the horror, due to where it's placed. Hannah Fierman is brilliant and incredibly creepy, and it will certainly make you think twice when picking up girls who say they like you. Ti West's Second Honeymoon is satisfactory, but nothing too special, but does feature a great acting turn by fellow director Joe Swanberg. Tuesday The 17th (Glenn McQuaid) is a love letter to the slasher film but features some very annoying 'video' drop-out effects which look far too digital than the analogue ones we were used to back in the day, and is probably the weakest and most clichéd of the bunch. The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger (directed by Swanberg) not only features the biggest mouthful of a title but diverges from the hand held format by playing out through a series of Skype style web chats. 10/31/98 (written and directed by a collective called Radio Silence) brings the film to a close in style, when a Halloween party does not go as planned. Amazing – and surprising - effects are this section's strongest draw.
There are a few minor quibbles that stop this being a complete success. At just under 2 hours, it is a little too long, especially as the majority of the film is hand held and very shaky. For the most part, you could completely believe you were watching video tape footage, although as mentioned, there are some moments when the glitches are just not the same as you'd get on a chewed up or oft copied tape. It would have looked better (and more authentic) in good old 4:3 TV ratio, as that is the type of TV the videos are hooked up to. Furthermore, wouldn't the Skype call be more likely to have been saved on disc rather than tape? Minor piffles, we know, but valid nevertheless. The aforementioned incidents at some screenings more likely were down to the shaky camera movements than on-screen gore or suspense, but it has its moments, and doesn't shy away from being gruesome.
No doubt it is in the home that this would be best enjoyed, unless, of course, you want to succumb to seizures or vomit-inducing dizziness.
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10