Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Release Review : V/H/S


It's always an exciting thing to sit down and finally watch a movie that you've been hotly anticipating for the better part of a year.  That's exactly what I did tonight, when I grabbed myself a Dunkin' Donuts iced pumpkin latte and pumpkin donut, and plopped down $9.99 to rent V/H/S On Demand.  As a man who absolutely loves horror anthologies as well as the VHS format that this film is celebrating (sort of...), I have been incredibly excited about V/H/S for quite some time now, excitement which has only peaked with a recent wave of incredibly positive reviews on pretty much every blog that I read.

So then, does V/H/S live up to the incredible amounts of hype my fellow bloggers have bestowed upon it?  Well, the latte and donut were pretty fuckin' good.  The movie?  Meh.

The basic premise of V/H/S, for those who may not be aware, is that it's the first ever found footage anthology, presented by a group of dickhead criminal friends who are offered a well paying job to break into an old dude's house, and steal a mysterious VHS tape.  It pays more than they generally get for grabbing chicks in parking lots and ripping their shirts off for the camera (a measly $50), so they take the job and head into the house, where they find the old dude dead in a chair, positioned in front of a bunch of scrambled televisions.  They begin sifting through his many VHS tapes, trying to find the one they're being paid to lift, and as they pop the tapes in to check them out, we are treated to five different found footage tales of terror, with the story of the hoodlums serving as the wraparound sixth story that ties the whole room together.  Er, the whole movie together.

This awesome concept was thought up by Bloody Disgusting's Brad Miska, who teamed up with several hot young up and coming filmmakers to write and direct the individual stories.  Let's take a bit of a closer look at each of those stories, which run about 20 minutes a piece.  Since the stories are all about the mystery of what's gonna happen next, I will keep these brief so as not to spoil anything.



After a solid 15 minutes is spent introducing us to the annoying band of misfits that serve to present each story, V/H/S kicks off with an entertaining bang with this tale, which is shown to us entirely through the lens of a pair of glasses outfitted with a video camera.  The plan is that a group of college kids are going to pick up a chick, bring her back to their motel room, and film one of them having sex with her.  Of course, things go horribly awry, when one of the girls they bring back turns out to be a whole lot more creepy than she looks.  And she looks pretty damn creepy.  But totally cute.  In an Angela Bettis sort of way.  I love Angela Bettis.  And now Hannah Fierman too.

This was my favorite story of the bunch, totally entertaining to watch and with a nice gory little payoff.  Amateur Night reminded me a lot of a Tales From The Crypt episode, and it's both highly creepy and a whole lot of fun.  Despite the intro wraparound being lackluster, and fairly annoying to watch, this segment was a solid way to start the film off proper.

Also want to mention that the actors in this one all did a fantastic job.  Really felt like watching real footage of a bunch of drunk dudes being drunk dudes.  So kudos to them.


This is the segment that I was most excited to check out, given my love for the films of Ti West.  The story is about a man and his woman that are road tripping through the Grand Canyon, who encounter a creepy chick in the motel they're staying in.  Creepy chicks are kinda the name of the game with this whole film, in case you hadn't noticed.  The story begins in typical slow burn Ti West fashion, but like the majority of his work, ends with a pretty weak payoff.  I dug the characters a lot and was very interested in where the story was going, but ultimately the finale of this one is where V/H/S started to lose me.  And it was pretty much all downhill from there.



McQuaid takes things in a different direction with his installment, a short slasher in the woods flick.  Girl brings friends out to the woods, they get high, skinny dip and then die.  That sorta thing.  Didn't like this one at all.  Don't want to give anything away in regards to the killer, but it was all just too silly for my liking.  Nice little shot on video 80's slasher vibe towards the end, I will say that though.



This is probably my least favorite segment in the film, a Skype chat between a girl and her boyfriend that gets creepy when ghosts start popping up behind the chick.  This one was just totally uninteresting from the word go, with a lame payoff that is never explained.  Kept thinking everything was gonna somehow come together by the end of the movie, where some unexplained stuff like the twist in this one would be explained, but alas, such a tie up never came. Boo.



Annnd ... another dud for me.  This one takes place on Halloween night of 1998, in case you couldn't tell by the title, and is basically about a group of friends who go to a costume party and find themselves in a twisted Night of the Demons type situation.  Again, boring story with a payoff that doesn't serve to make the boredom worth enduring.  I will admit that I had bored and sleepy eyes by the time I made it to this one, which certainly didn't help.

Soooo, here's the deal.

I knew I was going to hate to have to come on here and say this, because I wanted to like this movie so very much, but boredom is kinda the name of the game with me when it comes to V/H/S.  Though the concept is awesome, hands down the best thing about the entire movie, the stories just aren't very good.  And for an anthology film, that shit just isn't acceptable.  Aside from the first story, which I had a blast with, I was pretty much bored for the remainder of the film, so much so that by the time I reached the last couple stories I was honestly just waiting for it to end.  The movie is just too damn long (nearly two hours) and the stories too damn uninteresting for me to really say anything too positive about it.  Hell, even the wraparound is fairly uninteresting.

If I'm being honest, though I was incredibly hopeful about this movie, I had a feeling that this was the way I was going to feel about it.  Based on the concept and talent involved, I was so pumped up about the movie when I first heard about it.  But after the trailer hit the net, I really wasn't impressed.  It just didn't look all that great, or at least as great as I had imagined it looking in my head when I first heard about it, and unfortunately I ended up feeling about it how I was fearing I would feel about it.  So meh.  And meh some more.

That said, I am at the same time kinda surprised I didn't so much dig it, given how in love with the movie pretty much every one of my horror loving friends seems to be.  It's really not even that the movie didn't live up the hype, because honestly, even without all the hype, I still would've been disappointed by the whole experience. I also don't really get why everyone is hailing this as a sort of anti-found footage found footage movie, because it's really just another found footage movie at the end of the day.  Cool concept and a unique way of doing it, but to dig on this and hate something like Paranormal Activity kinda doesn't make much sense to me.  But to each his own.

As much as I wanted to love this movie, and as much as I wanted to be able to come on here and hail it as one of the best in years, as so many have been doing, V/H/S ultimately left me scratching my head as to why so many seem to have gotten so much enjoyment out of it.  It's definitely entertaining at times, and I dug the Amateur Night segment quite a bit, but the movie all around just did not do much for me.  Can't help but feel like a lot of people are jerking this movie off because they so badly want to love it, based on the concept, but maybe that's just me being bummed out that I can't jump on the bandwagon here.  I wanted to love it too, in the worst of ways, but I can't come on here and pretend that I did.  So I offer up one last big ole MEH to you, V/H/S.

Oh, one more little thing, before I go.  If all the videos we're shown in the film are supposed to be shown to us through old VHS tapes, why the hell do the events of the stories take place in current time?  Again, I was waiting for everything to be tidied up and made sense of in the end, but that never happened.  I of course understand that the whole VHS tape thing was merely a way to present these different stories, but it would've been kinda cooler if they were actually presented as if they were filmed back in the days of the VHS tape.  Something about webcam footage being on a VHS tape that just doesn't make all that much sense, if ya think about it.



Brittany said...

I had my heart set on watching this. I'm hoping we get our power back on soon. Damn you Isaac!!!!

Chris said...

Wow was this bad. I was not as bummed by not liking it as you John, since most of the over hyped new crop of horror coming out from "80's loving genre filmmakers" NEVER live up to the OVER HYPE. I was hoping they would have the balls to actually shoot everything on VHS as well...but nope. Bah. Another one bites the dust of sho.

Johnny said...

Yeaaa it seemed the whole VHS angle was more to draw in folks like us. I was thinking all the segments were gonna be shot on VHS. Was surprised to see that wasn't the case at all. The movie really had nothing to do with the format other than that wraparound, which was a bummer to see.

Zach Shoutlet said...

Alas, I rather agree with you on this one. I wasn't terribly impressed with any of the segments and I was just sort of left unsatisfied after the movie. Too bad, I so dearly wanted it to be good...

Koyote TheBartender said...

I couldn't agree more. If anything i hated it even more than you did, as my review was my most venomous yet (I wouldn't even give it a "meh"). You make some good points too about how the technology used isn't even from the VHS era, and about how people tend to "jerk off" a movie just because they've been told to like. Totally the case here.

Edgar Allen said...

Thanks for the great review, Jonny! I went online Friday afternoon and rented V/H/S just before leaving my office at DISH. It was loaded on my Hopper and ready to watch by the time I walked in my door. I agree that there were some plot holes in the stories, some issues with pacing that dragged this film down, but I think it’s foolish to focus on the web cam and digital footage too much. When you consider that this guy had a whole collection of supernatural snuff films, it isn’t much of a stretch to consider that his “supplier” put the recordings on V/H/S just for the collection. This film had its issues, but I liked it and I have my fingers crossed for a sequel that expands on Tape 56 while offering a few new vignettes.

Jay Amabile said...

V/H/S was awful.