MOVIE REVIEW: V/H/S – VIRAL / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: BLAIR REDFORD, CARRIE KEAGAN, MICHAEL FLORES / RELEASE DATE: TBC
The popular found footage anthology series returns, lugging a packed case full of new directors and stories with it. As the subtitle suggests, V/H/S: Viral takes the franchise down a slightly different route, being concerned with the struggles of those who would be famous in our modern age. Luckily they all have mobile phones to record their every single movement, for better or worse.
For 'worse', see the film's wraparound tale, involving an ice cream van and a kidnapped girl. The incompetence carries on with the first segment – a silly, barely found footage story about a magician and his magic cape. Stupid, lacking scares and tension and tonally at odds with the rest of the film (and series), Dante the Great (really) gets Viral off on the wrong footing, and it never recovers from there.
Which is a shame, because Nacho Vigalondo's Parallel Monsters is a great example of how clever and inventive the series can be when it tries, utilising the director's love of daft sci-fi and black comedy to great effect. To say anything beyond that would be to spoil its tricks, but suffice to say that it's by far the best thing about the film. The skateboarders-vs-cultists short Bonestorm isn't quite so clever, but it has good action, manic energy and reanimated skeletons – something sorely lacking in horror films these days. Then it's onto the loud but uninteresting Vicious Circles, and the film ends as disappointingly as it started. Thanks to its dud elements, the disparate storylines fail to gel as an entity, leaving Viral feeling too short and completely disconnected from its two predecessors.
To sum up, 2012's V/H/S was a well-presented but ultimately flawed portmanteau piece. Its sequel, V/H/S 2 was a vast improvement, featuring a genuine masterpiece in Gareth Evans' Safe Haven. We had hoped that Viral would continue the upward curve in quality, but it's actually the worst yet. Both previous films' worst entries are far better than Vicious Circles and Dante the Great, while it leaves Vigalondo's work sadly lost among the mess. The atmosphere is almost gone and even the visual trickery seems more restrained than usual. Worst of all, it's completely lacking in scares. If the franchise wants to carry on, V/H/S really needs to find a good antivirus.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10