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Listen, the only way to truly enjoy a horror film is in a large, pitch black room with deafening surround sound and a group of people just as scared as you are. Other times, a laptop works too. But I, and a group of about 100 others were privileged to catch the first Canadian premiere of V/H/S presented by the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Enough plugs, onto the film right? My review. See it! If you love horror, if you hate horror, if you think you might like it and wanna try it out, just see it! Without spoiling anything I will say that there are about 5 or 6 anthology stories tied around a main story in which four guys break into a house to look for a specific video tape. They find a lot more, let me tell you. Some of the segments are better than others (trust me, you'll know which ones) but overall, V/H/S is one of the most imaginative, jolting, riveting, heart-beating-outside-of-your-chest-because-its-so-intense horror films of recent time. Fans of Creepshow 1 and 2, Tales From the Darkside, Twilight Zone (the movie) and even Stephen King, if you get the chance to watch V/H/S, do it! It's bloody, it's scary, it's haunting, and if you're anything like me, you'll know it scared you when it's 1:43 in the morning and the only thing you can do to make yourself fall asleep, is to review the film on IMDb.
What we have in V/H/S are a bunch of prolonged horror moments that in
usual cases would be the climax to any average horror movie. The movie
manages to throw 5 of these 'money shots' at the viewer without the
need to tell any real story, build any of the characters or introduce
their personality's to the audience. Whether this is a stroke of genius
originality or just laziness is the question.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that V/H/S is the result a brain storming session where five writers pitched five stories, with one 'Eureka' moment of making a movie of the ending of all five. What they seemingly failed to spend any real time on though was the glue to bind the five stories together. It is completely irrelevant, in fact I would go as far as to say the movie would be better without it, a "Here are five tapes that were found, now watch them" instead.
I have to say I am a fan of 'found footage movies'. To me they achieve the desired effect and can, at times, create some truly chilling moments. This movie does have it's moments but after a while it all gets to much, the 'found footage' angle is somehow lost with the constant change of story. You are never really allowed to reach the same level of suspense as with other films in this genre.
6/10. It passed the time but I eventually found myself wanting it to end and asking myself "How many stories to go?"
I can understand if you do not like the so-called 'found footage'
films, for example; Blair Witch and Cloverfield. I must admit, some of
them work, some of them don't. Cloverfield worked for me, but only on
the big screen in a cinema. Blair Witch worked for me, but only on a
small PC monitor. Some things work better depending on the way you view
these things, but also, what works with one person, will not work with
another, everybody is different.
With that out of the way, let me honestly try to convince you that my small review on this film is mainly based on its merits, and not just what I enjoy personally.
I think the credit is due to the effort that went behind making this film, because even though each of the video tapes the guys find and watch are very strange and hard to swallow, they have genuinely tried hard to convey a sense of realism.
But it also helps if the viewer made a little effort, and suspended your disbelief in order to get into the film. Some people can do this easier than others. If your a horror fan, this will entertain at the very least. Each of the five found tapes start off innocently enough like home movies, but each one reveals shocking footage of something strange or unravels into a horrifying ordeal. It reminded me of 'Tales of the unexpected' or 'The Twilight Zone' but with the use of a hand-held camera instead.
Again, it'll either work for you or it wont. But the makers of this film tried hard and kudos to them. The effects were great, the acting was as expected, just as in any 'found footage', if its going to convey realism, its NOT going to have Oscar worthy acting, don't forget these are meant to be 'real' people. And the stories behind each tape were all entertaining.
In the end then, before you watch it, heres some top tips; Turn the lights out. Keep telling yourself that what you are watching is 'real'. Open your mind. And enjoy.
Really a massive disappointment. I had read over on a blog that this
film would "restore my faith in horror films". I read all over the
internet about just how great this film was. So I spent ten dollars to
view it last night.
The found footage idea isn't wholly a terrible idea, the problem is that it just doesn't usually work. By usually, I mean ever. Horror as a genre has been falling apart at the seams for years, and the advent of "found- footage" certainly hasn't helped. In fact, it feels like it's making a mockery out of horror rather than restoring it to glory.
Enough about that. Regarding the film: The first problem we get here is that the writers/directors have two hours to piece together six cohesive stories. That's fine, but if that's the case, we need to only focus on the important stuff here. Half the time, you'll feel like you're watching some stranger's home movie collection. It's drab, it's boring, it doesn't serve to build suspense, it just drags. You see, when we only get twenty minutes with characters, we don't give a hoot about what they're like. All footage should serve the story, and it just doesn't here. So yes, a lot of the film dragged and a lot of the film was boring.
The second huge problem: the scary stuff. There isn't enough of it. There isn't enough that was supposed to be there in the first place, and most of what you get is just goofy. There were a few jump scares that weren't done all that effectively due to some of the worst camera work the world has ever seen. We understand that this is supposed to be amateur shot footage. That doesn't mean people film themselves walking around with friends while wildly waving their arms around like a complete lunatic. So when you aren't sure what you're looking at and your eyes are constantly struggling to adjust, the few jump scares that were put in the film no longer serve a purpose.
I'm not sure if my next complaint should be lodged against the actors or the writers. Maybe both? All of the characters, I mean ALL of the characters, are incredibly unlikable or plain bothersome. There's a character that basically just cackles through an entire story. There's a character that has no personality aside from leaving her mouth agape at all times. So yeah, the acting was pretty bad, but the writing was probably the worst part of the whole thing. One story in particular was such a joke on the writing front, we couldn't contain our laughter watching it. Not because it was supposed to be funny either.
So here we have six basically nonsensical and incomprehensible stories that lack direction, character, motivations or scares and we throw it all together to create one low-res pile of crap. We have scenes that make NO SENSE in regards to how it ended up on a VHS tape, uninspired concepts, terrible camera work, and just terrible writing.
Here is another Paranormal Activity: TONS of hype, great press and reviews, but underneath all of that is a really uniquely awful film. I'm serious; I thought it was really that bad. Uniquely awful in just how inept and uninspired it is.
Want a compilation horror film that tries to tackle a few sub-genres of horror? Try Trick-R-Treat. It wasn't anything spectacular, but it was enjoyable and well written. V/H/S is something I hope dies and people forget about by Christmas. What an awful, awful film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some folks might be a little deterred from seeing V/H/S when they learn
it's a found footage movie. Well, rest assured, there's nothing to
worry about as this is an excellent example of the sub-genre. Perhaps
at the root of the film's success is its structural format. It's an
anthology movie, made up of a selection of short stories based around a
series of videotapes found by burglars at a scary house. While some of
the segments are better than others, where this one scores is that even
the weaker stories contain some very scary moments. Each and every one
delivers the goods in this respect and that's half the battle when it
comes to horror flicks. The different stories are basically disturbing
in the way that the best found footage flicks are, in that we are
literally put right into the shoes of these people and their terror
transmits more easily.
I won't reveal many details of the contents but, amongst other things, there is a vampire, malevolent ghosts, a supernatural serial killer, a house invader and a weird ritual. There's a skillful combination of visceral and suggested horror. From the former there are several scenes of blood and guts including a beheading by knife and some disembowellings. But it's the mysterious moments that create the genuine tension, such as sinister figures seen briefly on camera, strange sounds and general weird goings on. The combination with both styles of horror is very successful. Overall, I have to say that this is a rather fine example of a recent horror film. It's genuinely unsettling quite often and the anthology format means that no idea overstays its welcome. It's definitely worth catching this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wow. Where do I start? How about by telling you not to waste your time
at all. I'm unbiased yet critical in my reviews, I will admit, but this
movie deserves to be destroyed and never shown to the public. Ever.
I'm highly disappointed, the previews made this look good and I couldn't wait for it to come out. It's B list work at best. The cast is a group of unknowns but it wouldn't even be considered a "good movie" if the cast was made up of more recognizable faces. The fact that people are trying to pass this off as "found footage" is sad. For a "found footage" film to be successful, the story as to why it was recorded in the first place should be plausible at best. The 5 "found footage" VHS tapes/stories that make up the length of this movie are no where near plausible by any means.
There are very few scares, if any at all. The only parts you could consider scary are when there's a sudden loud noise you weren't expecting or a quick turn of the camera towards something you weren't expecting. But don't get me wrong, even those typical hallmark scares aren't even scary in this particular film.
If you want to add two hours of disappointment into your day, then I would suggest watching this movie.
The horror anthology has a chequered history, some are bad but saved by
one great segment, others boast a couple of genuine creepers but are
undone by one instalment so bad it tarnishes the film forever. And on
it goes. V/H/S brings the format into the new age by unfolding its
tales by wrapping around the latest craze of found footage.
Six indie directors have produced a picture that was well received at Sundance but has proved to be most divisive with critics and horror fans on internet forums. This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows their horror anthology onions. The usual problems are evident here, a couple of great stories are surrounded by mediocre ones, but at least there is something for everyone, with most bases covered, but that in itself is a problem, all horror fans have preferences, it's a big ask to expect a fan of stalk and slash to love a story about a winged harpy!
Then there is the issue of the found footage format, here recorded on actual VHS. Not everyone is a fan (myself for instance), and much of V/H/S is dizzying and often hard to follow, especially as regards the Tape 56/frame narrative story that cloaks the other five stories as a bunch of no-mark young crims burgle a grotty house and sift through the tapes. It's a format loved by many for its supposed realism factors, I don't get that myself, but for those people this really is up their trees!
Amateur Night (David Bruckner) and The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger (Joe Swanberg) are the standouts. The former is a cautionary tale of frat boys out for sex who get more than they bargained for when they take home the mysterious Lily, the latter an eerie tale unfolded via Skype communication as Emily appears to be a victim of a haunting whilst chatting to her doctor boyfriend.
However, if you ask another fan of the film what stories they feel standout, you may just get two different answers. So as with any other anthology horror, you roll the dice and take your chance, just don't expect genius in every story, for that is purely folly of expectation. 7/10
I love found-footage films, especially when they are done well. I also love horror anthologies withe some of my favourite TV shows being The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Tales From The Darkside. The two joining together for V/H/S was a very exciting idea and gave me very lofty expectations. I was amazed to find that for the most part they were met. V/H/S sees a gang of guys break into a house in order to steal a video cassette for blackmailing purposes. Once in he house they find a huge collection of videos, each one showing a different tale of horror. The first is the story about a couple of girls picked up from a bar and recorded secretly on camera glasses. This is probably the scariest tale with some very disturbing imagery. I still can't get the look of a certain character out of my head. In it's short running time it also hits upon some emotional notes that I wasn't expecting. Perfect effects and nailbiting tension make this a great start. Video number two sees a couple on a road trip who are secretly filmed at night. The idea of an intruder watching you at your most vulnerable is nerve-racking. Story number three was my least favourite but was still mostly effective. It was let down by cheesy dialogue that over explained the details of the plot. The effects here were again very well done with a sickening look at an eyeball sliding out of a socket. Story number 4 is shot through Skype and has the biggest ambitions in terms of plot. I would like to see this again as I didn't enjoy it at first because of a terrible performance from the male lead, but there is a reason for this which makes sense after viewing. The final tale is a haunted house film that builds up incredibly well. It starts with an empty house and moves towards all hell breaking loose with some of the most flawless effects I have ever seen. Each story was interesting and most importantly it kept to the rules of found-footage. Everything appears as though it was done in-camera. It's left me thinking about the stories and getting my imagination to work overtime as not a lot is explained. The only real let down was the wrap-around that tried to connect these stories. It really didn't work and just made the film a bit too long. When I buy this on DVD I am pretty certain I will be skipping those parts. Hope we see a V/H/S 2.
Saw this at the Fantasia film festival and I hope to have an
opportunity to see it with an audience again, as I'm not sure the film
would be as effective if one were to watch it alone at home. In any
case, V/H/S is a collection of short "found footage" horror films
produced by Brad Miska, the man behind bloody-disgusting.com. It
features the directing talents of several established Indy filmmakers
including David Bruckner (THE SIGNAL), Ti West (THE INNKEEPERS), Glenn
McQuaid (STAKE LAND), Adam Wingard (A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE), noted
mumblecore actor/director Joe Swanburg, and the popular internet video
collective known as Radio Silence (best known for the various CHAD,
MATT & ROB INTERACTIVE ADVENTURE's).
I enjoyed each and every segment, though the two the stand up the best to post-Experience scrutiny are probably Bruckner's (AMATEUR NIGHT) and Swanburg's (THE STRANGE THING THAT HAPPENED TO EMILY WHEN SHE WAS YOUNG). In AMATEUR NIGHT, a couple of guys give a pair of Spycam glasses to a friend and the three go out to have a wild night on the town. They end up bringing two young woman back to their apartment, one of whom seems extremely "game", while the other might as well actually BE game, in as much as she behaves like an excited, yet cautious animal, her eyes always bugged out, her head turning sharply and rapidly at every movement or sound, and rather than speak, she hisses in barely intelligible verbalized feral spurts. And sure enough, once her clothes come off, one discovers that there's much more to this gal than could ever have been imagined.
As for STRANGE THING THAT HAPPENED TO EMILY, this one involves a series of (often stationary) Skype video conversations between a man and a women, the later convinced that a peculiar entity is inside her house, perhaps the ghost of a child with which she hopes to communicate while her boyfriend helplessly looks on through the laptop screen. Those who easily get queasy from constant "swingcam" footage, will be particularly pleased with the inclusion of this one.
The other segments are: Second Honeymoon (Ti West) - A couple's vacation is compromised by a mysterious nocturnal intruder.
Tuesday the 17th (Glenn McQuaid) - A young woman is not honest about her intentions when she brings her friends out to a secluded spot in the woods where several murders once occurred.
10/31/98 (Radio Silence) - Friends set off for a party dressed up in lame Halloween costumes, but instead of arriving at their intended destination, they find themselves in a demoniacally haunted house at the absolute worst time possible.
and the wraparound... Tape 56 (Adam Wingard) - Some guys are paid to break into a house and steal a video tape. When they get there they find a dead man and DOZENS of tapes. In order to find the tape they've been asked to steal, they begin watching the tapes one after another (the other 5 stories being what they find on those tapes).
Arranged around and within a tenuous wraparound home invasion scenario, the vignettes that comprise this shakycam shocker prove memorably effective, each lulling the viewer into a false sense of security via meanderingly mundane set-ups that abruptly shift to more unnerving, visceral territory. Old tropes such as alien interference, haunted houses, serial killers, and femmes fatales find themselves fed through the lens of the hand-held camera to rather impressive effect. The overall picture painted by these series of snuff flicks-within-a-flick is one of a world sporadically at the mercy of an otherworldly array of entities, with the glaring unremarkability of its setting serving to amplify, rather than undermine, the atmosphere of cosmic malevolence. All these elements amount to a punchy anthology which succeeds in overriding my antipathy toward the dreaded jittercam technique - no mean feat!
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