'V/H/S' is one of those ‘movies within a movie’ kind of movie. Confused yet? You needn’t be. If you’re a horror head, living for the thrill of the hunt or the hunted, flash back to cult classics like 'Creepshow' or 'Trick or Treat' to get a hint of what to expect – a startling anthology aimed to send a shiver down your spine.
What separates 'V/H/S' is the liberal use of a shaky camera – all the rage since indie filmmakers discovered it’s a great way to provoke anxiety, particularly when a film has no budget. Blame it on 'The Blair Witch Project' but sometimes it works.
'V/H/S' is one of those times, depicting what happens when a group of misfits is hired to swipe a VHS tape from a house containing a dead guy who might not really be dead. But who cares about the dead guy? He’s busy disappearing and reappearing. Therefore the misfits continue to search, sifting though stacks of VHS tapes to locate the proper one.
That’s when the movie lifts, beginning with captured footage of a group of frat boy types who stumble upon a pale girl with bug eyes who appears to only know three words. I like you. That’s enough for most horny young guys so they head back to the hotel, where a night of intoxication leads to a toxic blood bath, all caught on camera, sparing no filter on the gore.
Other tales follow similar themes where young people place trust in someone unworthy, leading to death (usually in a hotel or the woods) by a weapon of choice, primarily a knife. Still, none of the stories are nearly as gripping as the first, though the final one, involving a group of young men stumbling upon an exorcism, comes really, really close.
The gossip hounds report 'V/H/S' had Sundance audiences fainting and puking in their seats, but then again the Sundance crowd has always had a flair for the dramatic. So is it that good? Yes, but not enough to spit up expensive popcorn or end the night in the ER. Still, with emerging directors Ti West ('The Innkeepers') and Glenn McQuaid ('I Sell The Dead') involved, horror enthusiasts will likely stand to applaud this hair-raising effort.
Sarasota Film Festival/2012 Terry Porter Memorial Award Spotlight
Saturday April 21st 9:45 pm.
Anthony Paull is a columnist, author, and filmmaker. His first novel Outtakes of a Walking Mistake is available now.