on 12 April 2013
VHS is an anthology movie, very much in the style of the old '80s cheese-ball horrors where a 'framing device' of a group of old men would sit around trying to outdo each other by telling horror tales that would then segue into the 'tale' itself.
In this case, 5 tales are loosely connected by the framing plot that a group of antisocial petty criminals have been hired to ransack a house to find a specific tape, and discover tales of terror on random VHS tapes as they search. I say loosely connected, because the 'framing storyline' (known as "Tape 56" and directed appallingly by Adam Wingard) doesn't work. The opening sequences of the movie are so choppily edited, anarchic and incoherent, and the youths searching for the tape so utterly detestable and devoid of character that I found myself not just utterly uninterested in anything that happened to them but actively wishing something bad would. Worse, "Tape 56" itself doesn't seem to care, as its filming is so amateurish and careless that the fates of several characters are utterly unexplained, and the framing device fails to work as anything more than a poor excuse because instead of book-ending the other plots, it ends before the fifth 'discovered tape' even starts.
Luckily the 'discovered tapes' are much better.
David Bruckner's "Amateur Night" follows a trio of horned up buddies on a clubbing night out, and explores what happens when low morals and an excess of alcohol lead them to invite strangers back for some fun...the effects are excellent, the acting of Hannah Fierman captivating, and the writing is tense and inventive.
'House of the Devil' director Ti West's segment "Second Honeymoon" follows a slightly geeky couple on a very ordinary mid-west road trip who get slightly freaked out when a mysterious stranger appears. The slowest building of the 5 'tapes', it's the one where the least seems to happen, but it sticks in the brain the longest. Why? Ti West's artful skill at relentless, eerie slow-building tension. The one with the least outlandish plot, the utter normality of the tale helps it disturb the most, as does the total lack of reliance on any of the stylised gimmicks used by many of the other directors such as flashy FX or camera excessive shake. Instead we're left with the creeping sense that something terribly wrong is going to happen, and Joe Swanberg's masterful performance as Sam when he manages to convey being deeply disturbed by what sounds like the most normal of encounters...
Glenn McQuaid's "Tuesday the 17th" (nice gag) follows a typical teenage trip out to a semi-deserted lake by four college friends, that soon starts to turn less typical as the camera starts to distort and show us startling images, and the friends' fun trip begins to skew deadly... it's cleverly inventive because it actually uses the camera as part of the narrative, and has a nasty bite, and it's fun that it adds a well considered twist to what sounds like a hackneyed plot.
Interestingly, "Second Honeymoon" actor Joe Swanberg also directs "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger." A clever segment involving webcams, it makes great use of the fact that you can often see more behind and around the person on screen than they're aware of, and tells the tale of a long distance romance between a girl and her boyfriend when she starts to believe her apartment might be haunted... Good performances are aided by some nicely paced thrills and some good special effects work, as well as a twisted tale.
Final 'tape' "10/31/98" is directed by collective 'Radio Silence' and is perhaps the most ambitious in scale as 4 friends go to a Halloween party and arrive to find the house seemingly deserted and crazy things going on. Filled with special effects, surprises and interesting sets, it nicely rounds off the tapes as perhaps the most 'big thrills' feeling of the 5.
In all they all wok as memorable and frightening horror segments, and the parties responsible have done a great job of bringing together several types not often found in the 'found footage' horror genre. The segments' filming styles and 'video' quality varies nicely as well, in keeping with the idea that they were all filmed by wildly different individuals in different ways and on different standards of equipment.
There are some downsides: being a fan of found footage horror, I'm not a 'camera-shake' whiner. However, 'Tape 56' and 'Tuesday the 17th' suffer so viciously from camera shake, and to such a ridiculous extreme, with a constantly swinging and pivoting point of view that both myself and my other half actually got very nauseous (it's never happened before) and had to look away from the screen at several points. Whether this is deliberate or not remains to be confirmed. If it is, it's a brave and clever use of a tool to inflict increased discomfort and tension on an audience while already edgy and uncomfortable, and represents a rare and cutting-edge case of the film-makers using every tool at their disposal to affect the viewer physically as well as emotionally. (It's not inconceivable it's deliberate, as camera shake has been a recognised nausea-causer since Blair Witch came out). However, if it's not intentional, it represents a case of the directors failing to control their technique and allowing it to negatively affect the audience, making them look away from the screen when they should be watching it.
The clips suffer from an over-reliance on certain lazy horror themes, too. Barely a single tape fails to feature pervy hormonal men trying to get girls to bare their breasts on camera, the guys come off looking like amoral sex obsessed scumbags, and often the girls come out of the sequences looking harsh and cold-blooded. (It's a giveaway that most of the writers and directors are men).
However, if you can ignore the downsides, what you're left with is a selection of bravely inventive, very gruesome and often very harsh horror that lodges in your brain. At the least, the movie will spark discussion. At best, you'll be very glad you watched it.
on 29 November 2012
I've been wanting to see this for near on 6 months now and finally got my chance last night.
I love anthology films, purely because, for every one short story that disappoints, you know there'll be another chance for the film to redeem itself shortly after.
The wraparound story is simply this, there's a bunch of idiots who wear balaclavas and go around grabbing women and pulling thier tops up and causing damage wherever they can, while one of them films it all so they can sell thier footage to a minor porn site for $50 a time. They get a job to earn some extra cash by breaking into an old mans house and recovering a mysterious VHS video tape. The only information they have is that the old man is harmless, lives alone and they will know the tape as soon as they see it.
Upon breaking into the house, they find the old man sitting in a chair, in front of a set of video recorders and TV screens, having apparently died of a heart attack. Not to be out of pocket, they decide to search the house for the mysterious tape. What they find is box upon box of VHS tapes, all looking the same and so they decide to play them back to see what is on them.
We are then treated to 5 found footage type short stories, which are on the tapes. And between each tape, sinister things are happening to the VHS hunting burglars and the dead man in the chair.
I'll list the stories below.
1: Amateur night: This segment is about a group of obnoxious guys who are in possesion of a pair of spycam glasses and the story is told directly through these. After a night out, they return home with 2 drunk young ladies for a night of wild sex, but after one of the girls passes out drunk, they focus thier attentions on the 2nd girl, who seems eerily weird, talks in whispers and has manorisms that are not quite human. Without giving too much away, after getting down to the nitty gritty, the scene turns nasty, when the girl changes into some kind of animal hybrid and begins to attack the group.
This was a great segment, the first 5 minutes were a little annoying as the guys in the story are so obnoxious that I myself was waiting for them to meet thier doom. The 2nd half of the story did not disappoint and had some good gore effects and a scary and downright freaky looking villain. 8/10
2: 2nd Honeymoon: This is a simple story about a couple who are on a road trip and filming thier holiday when they are approached by a weird young girl asking them for a lift out of town in the morning. Then when the couple go to sleep, the camera myseriously turns itself on and begins to film them. Someone or something is creeping into thier room at night and watching them sleep. This then obviously turns nasty in a twisted way.
This to be honest, was my least favorite out of the stories, that said, it isn't rubbish by any means, just a bit weird. There are a couple of really jumpy moments in the segment but it is definitely the weakest story in the film. 4/10
3: Tuesday the 17th: This one follows a group of 4 people who are heading out to the woods for a weekend orgy, led by a girl who seems a bit freaked out when they get there. But soon after they arrive, they realise the girls intentions are far from innocent, as they are stalked by a strange fuzzy looking, electrical prescence in the woods.
This was a quite good segment, the stalker is really weird and the gore effects are absolutely brill. In one scene a woman has a knife thrown at speed through the back of her head which comes out of the front end, taking her eyeball with it. Gory and freaky fun. 8/10
4: A strange thing that happened to Emily: Segment 4 is solely done on a webcam, it is simply a girl chatting to her boyfirend on her laptop, who is convinced that her apartment is haunted by the spirit of a small child. Strange things start to happen, a'la Paranormal activity, as she walks around her apartment with her laptop, to try and show her boyfriend that she is not merely imagining the whole thing.
This one was so simple that it could have fallen flat on its face. But it doesn't, the webcam use is so effective and the story has many jump out scares to satify the most demanding of horror buffs. The first scene where you see the ghost made all of the hair on my body stand up on end and really made me jump. What happens to poor Emily is as weird as weird gets but is definitely worth the wait.
5: 10/31/98: This is a story about a group of lads who set out to attend a friends fancy dress party for Halloween. They get lost and eventually find what they believe to be the right house. Once inside, several weird things begin to happen but the friends think that this is all part of the party, until they follow the screams of a woman up into the attic, where the horror of what they have walked into unfolds.
This was my favourite segment, it was quite amusing at first and the geeky lads in cheesy fancy dress costumes were quite fun to watch. Once they discover what is happening in the attic, all hell breaks loose and what follows, is one of the freakiest and most awesome haunted house sequences I've ever seen. Brilliantly twisted. 9/10
All in all I'd give this a solid 8/10, it is the first time the found footage genre has been used in an anthology and it works, for the most part very well. There are genuine scares and jumps and it is very creepy in parts. Each segment is made by different horror directors and so each one has it's own style and feel.
A must see for horror buffs and found footage fans alike. I can't wait for V/H/S 2 (titled S-V/H/S) which has just been completed and is due for release later in 2013.
V/H/S is a weird and strangely fascinating film that takes the found footage genre up and raises it up a notch, as it's basically a found footage movie built upon a number of different found footage videos, with everything tied together with a twisted little bow. For the first 15-20 minutes, you're a little unsure about what you're watching; by the end of the first little sub-story, though, you know you're in for an uncommonly wild ride through a gauntlet of dark and gory horror thrills. Those who give up on V/H/S too early don't know what they're missing.
The main storyline has us tagging along with a bunch of twenty-something hooligans who go around filming all of their acts of vandalism, robbery, assault, and other nefarious deeds. Then one of them says he has a job that promises a most satisfactory payoff. All they have to do is break into this old man's house and steal a certain video tape - they have no idea what is on the tape, but the third party that wants it says they'll know it when they see it. So off they go, video camera in hand, to burgle the old guy's house. The job seemingly gets a lot easier when they find the old man dead in his chair, facing a wall of TV monitors and video players. That gives them the chance to go through the video tapes they do find to try and find "the tape." As it turns out, though, that's where they make their big mistake.
This is when things start to get good. Each tape features a group of strangers filming their own little adventures. The first one, for example, features three guys who go out on the town to pick up chicks - with one of the guys wearing spy glasses to capture all the fun on video. They manage to get a couple of girls to go home with them, but things don't go as planned from that point on. One of the girls is really weird - both in terms of her looks and her behavior - and she is definitely not the type you want to bring home, even for a one night stand. Then you have a travelogue of a couple's vacation out west, with some creepy moments leading up to an unexpected ending; a group of college kids' trip to an isolated lake (and you know nothing good ever comes from that scenario); a string of video chat recordings between a cute girl and her out-of town boyfriend, centering on a "haunting" in the girl's apartment; and, finally, a group of buddies' video of the Halloween party from hell ( a word to the wise: when you go to a Halloween party, make sure you've got the right house before you go in). Of course, in between and after each video, our gang of hooligans are unknowingly filming their own horror story for us, as well.
V/H/S really offers a great new spin on the found footage genre. The middle stories aren't as strong as the first and last ones, but there are some really good special effects throughout. Everything is filmed on VHS tape, of course, some of them copied on top of other recordings, so we aren't talking about digital special effects here. That being said, some of the effects are really just superb given the VHS format. Blood, gore, and ghostly manifestations all look cheaply real rather than really cheap. You're a little hard pressed to find any characters you like in any of these stories, but that doesn't really matter in this particular context. The first and last videos are particularly spellbinding, while all of them have their creepy moments. I think most horror fans, even those who dislike found footage films, will get a real kick out of V/H/S.
on 29 May 2013
I must admit, the horror genre is, for the most part, a swirling vortex of dross. As a result it seems that the excellent VHS isn't getting the exposure or recognition it deserves. It's a shame because this film really should have found a wider mainstream audience.
In fairness, there's nothing particularly new here- Hammer horror were doing portmanteau films back in the sixties and the found-footage/fake documentary thing has become a cinema standard since Cannibal Holocaust. However, VHS has a subtlety, simplicity and off-kilter sense of humour that lifts it a cut above the rest. The short film format works particularly well for the crudeness of horror, allowing the tales to be unsettling and ambiguous. Plus, the framing scenario of these videos being found & viewed by some looting bozos casts doubt over the validity of each one, which conversely adds a layer of realism to the whole thing. True, a lot of the characters are obnoxious morons but the acting is fine, the dialogue naturalistic and the special effects are exactly the way they're meant to be.
On the downside, the fourth story (about a medical student talking to his girlfriend via webcam) is pretty naff, has the most gratuitous nudity and doesn't really fit with the overall feel of the film. Also, the jerky cameras can be a bit annoying. Apart from those niggles, though, VHS is an unsung classic.
on 6 November 2016
first of all you break into some ones home (like you do) then you sit yourself down on the couch and start watching there video tapes ?( I was waiting for them to find an old wedding video or one of those embarrassing videos staring uncle Bob you know the ones the family know about but don't usually talk about ) but on this occasion strange things started happening , like the girl who broke in with this guy is left alone for a few minutes in the living room and when he returns she is suddenly found convulsing on the floor ( maybe the owner came back unexpectedly and caught her eating the Jammy Dodgers ) we may never know any way it is a strange film with plenty of blood for all you Vampires out there personally I could Murder a pack of Jammy Dodgers.
on 14 May 2013
For those who love shaky fake found footage, this one is da bomb. A group of criminals film their escapades of vandalism and assaults to sell to a buyer. They then enter a house to get a VHS tape, they will know it when they see it. The rest of the movie shows us found footage film within a found footage film. Oh joy. There is a dead man in the house sitting in front of a series of TVs. Each hooligan watches a film segment, then disappears from the movie. The film segments are not connected, i.e. there is no real common theme other than it is more snuff than horror with a different type of monster/entity in each piece.
The final installment, I thought had the best special effects, but with the jerky camera motion and people screaming makes it difficult to enjoy any of it.
Parental Guide: F-bombs, sex, and plenty of nudity, including full frontal (Hannah Fierman).
on 10 October 2014
Blair Witch camera work style. This only worked for 'Blair Witch Project' and only once. The copycats (like this one) are just annoying.
Amateurish trying to be cool. If at least there was a connection between the stories, it would be less bad. But there isn't. It's just silly! Don't waste your time!!
on 20 January 2013
V/H/S is a film you will either love or hate. What I would say to anyone reading is - watch the film and decide for yourself. As a horror movie with elements of fantasy, I found it to be disturbing, subversive, atmospheric - and bleak. It (purposely) looks like rough videotape, complete with picture noise and at times, muffled, jarring sound, old images surface and appear at random, like floating ghosts, as if the tape has been used many times before, it lends the film an authentic and genuinely creepy feel. Several scenes are difficult to watch and are deeply unpleasant. At last, a horror film that is actually horrific. There is blood, dirt, terror, nudity and gore. Some of the stories are vividly lurid and all of them invoke a sense of dread. There are images that stay with you. Voyeuristic. Hellish. Satanic. A Slit Throat. A Broken Wrist. A Black Wet Liver. Some of it makes no sense. Like real life then. I loved it. I thought that the "I like you" girl and segment (Amateur Night) were excellent, I do not need, nor want to know her origin or motive, it is enough for her to be brilliantly creepy, and vile; there is no logic, no reason and therein lies the horror, the story retains a black shroud of terror and mystery and strange beauty - because there is no explanation. This leaves your mind free to wander, to theorize and to imagine. Tuesday The 17th has a dark surprise that is fresh and smart, like The Blair Witch Project in broad daylight with bloody violence, added menace and glimpses of a macabre killer that gives a new perspective to the phrase 'video nasty.' Second Honeymoon is wonderfully taut, it is tense and you may just wonder where it is all heading until it has crept upon you and its shocking conclusion has spread through your mind like blood in water. The blood is in the water. Dark and spreading. Dark as clouds smothering the moon at midnight.
on 15 December 2012
This has to be one of the best, if not the best horror films released in the 20th century so far.
The directors all have brought justice to the found footage genre, bringing something truly unique to the table with V/H/S.
It consists of different stories, which fit with different horror genres. Admittedly, some of the stories are much stronger than the others, and manage to be genuinely scary, a term which doesn't really apply to many other horror films these days.
Personally, the first tape 'Amateur night' and the last tape '10/31/98' are the strongest, with Amateur Night having one of the most un-nerving looking villains which will put you on edge, and with 10/31/98 having quite a classic paranormal/haunted house vibe to it, with it's fair share of jump scares and effects, there's something in this film for all horror fans to enjoy.
The ways in which the video's have been filmed have been thought about, rather than it being some guy wandering round with a camera, each segment explains the reasoning for filming and have various styles, one of which 'A strange thing that happened to Emily' follows a 'Skype conversation' style of filming, to make the stories seem somewhat believable. 'Tuesday the 17th' follows a cliché killer story with a clever twist which is probably one of the bloodiest tapes. '2nd Honeymoon' also has a twist, yet manages to be very creepy in the sense we don't know who is filming.
Overall, if you're a fan of found footage, or horror in general, give this movie a try. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're looking for something new and original, then maybe you'll enjoy some of the segments.
on 29 December 2012
This may look like your ordinary weekly cheap horror release as there are so many of them but V/H/S is actually a very good, clever movie and one of the years best, its directed by several known people from the genre including Ti West (the innkeepers, house of the devil)who is very good at what he does, the movie is a found footage film which will probably put people off but please give it a chance!!, the entire movie is made up of footage from peoples cameras who all fall foul to some kind of bizarre event that leads to their death, its allot more original than your average movie of this kind and does incorporate some brilliant effects and some quite hardcore violence at times, it gives off a very scary vibe too at times with each segment being very unique, this is a film not to be missed by horror fans, the movie also runs at just under 2hrs too which is pretty good for this type of movie. Make sure you check it out.