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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.
First of all every character in this movie is terrible. They're either perverted frat boy assholes or completely void of personality. They're not the kind of characters you can't wait to be killed, they're the kind of characters you can't wait to stop listening to. I know there's no time to really flesh out any characters in an anthology, but you can at least give them a personality, these guys are just boring, boring, boring.
The plot of most of these shorts are only possible through monumentally stupid decisions from the characters. They never call the call the cops, are constantly tripping while running away (maybe if you dropped the camera...), and the overarching plot characters are the stupidest of them all.
There's no bow-tie at the end connecting all these stories, and therefore no need for the very bland overarching story itself. However in a few of the tapes the mystery is strong enough to keep you interested and some of the tension is pretty thrilling, although it never really pays off.
I would be more forgiving of the cliché story and characters if it was easier to watch, and I'd be more forgiving of the found footage faux-pas if it had better stories. But this is the worst of both worlds, I would give this a 4/10 but I'm bumping it up 1 for the tits.
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.
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
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.
Wrap-around: 30 something douchers acting like angsty pre-teens inexplicably move from assaulting couples for the purpose of filming boobs, to home invasion to find a VHS tape. We get into the group dynamic when a heated discussion arises whether they should grow their brand from filming boobs to filming asses as well, which inevitably escalates to someone smashing a TV with a bat. Let it be known, that it's strictly boobs -- and stealing creepy tapes -- from here on out. They have no idea what tape they are supposed to take in a home filled with 'creepy' tapes. Why are they still there?! There are way too many tapes to take. They are all strange. They have no idea what they are looking for. Let's sit down and watch some of the strange tapes? How will that help you find this needle in a haystack. The most poor thing about this wraparound...is that we never discovered the tape they were looking for that might have shed light on this clumsy setup.
First Tape: Definitely the strongest, though it ended very weirdly. I thought the girl was some sort of feral cat-woman. The story plays this up pretty nicely...and in the last 30 seconds throws that all out the window revealing that she is full-on vampire with bat-wings...sigh. I will reiterate that this is the strongest tale.
Second Tape: Some newlyweds(?) go on a boring roadtrip. Of course they must record every minute of this tired, banal odyssey. If you think the level of contrivance for why the camera is running is high at this point, just wait for the reveal...
Third Tape: Awful. Kid's go to lake to get high and screw and get massacred. The 'twist' is that one of the girls planned this to lure out a madman that had killed her friends years ago. The second 'twist' is that he's paranormal and can't be filmed. The third 'twist' is...I dunno. If the first part of this short is a mess, the third act is the inevitable mindless lobotomized result.
Fourth Tape: Nothing in this one makes sense. It also isn't scary. The characters are all annoying. I can't believe this even survived the cutting room floor and made it in THIS horrible anthology.
Fifth Tape: The finale! The tale is pretty lackluster and seems like a student film project focusing on CGI effects work.
Did I mention that the wraparound ended before the fifth tape was even played? Sloppy at every step.
Good one Brad Miska, you conned your entire community to make a quick buck on your crappy film. No wonder you concealed the fact that this was your aborted baby while punching it up all over Bloody Disgusting for months.