Sunday, September 2, 2012

V/H/S - Analog Bricks Of Horror

VHS.  Just saying those three letters gives me a warm feeling all over.  VHS, of the Video Home System won out the videotape format wars, beating out Betamax and (to a MUCH lesser degree) the VX.  Back when I was a kid, there were Mom & Pop shops everywhere filled with VHS tapes.  Slipcases, Clamshell, Big Box....they had them all....displayed shelf upon shelf, with their lurid artwork proudly on display.

These days, there are many Videovores and VHS Hunters such as myself, who can't get enough of those magical analog magnetic tapes.  VHS tapes can go for as little as a penny (which is very common with a lot of the later produced tapes from the late 90's and early 00's) to as much as $800.00 (that's about how much was paid for the ultra-rare tape Tales From The QuaDead Zone).  It never ceases to amaze me how "dead formats" can suddenly make a resurgence in popularity.  In fact VHS has become so repopularized (yup, I made up that word) that some filimmakers are actually releasing their new films on VHS!   

I'm sure you're not here for a history lesson, though.  So let's get on with it, shall we?  I first heard about V/H/S about a year ago and was immediately excited about it.  See, I'm also a sucker for anthology films AND found footage films.  V/H/S combines both of these together in a very interesting way.  The concept is that some lowlife thugs are hired to break into an old guys house and steal a VHS tape with unknown content on it.  After breaking in, the thugs find the old man in a room upstairs dead in his chair.  There is a group of TV's stacked up in the room connected to a VCR and a mess of VHS tapes on the floor.  Checking the the contents of the tape is what allows us to jump from short film to short film.

I've gotta tell ya, I had a blast with this film.  Sure some of the stories are weaker than others (which is the case with any anthology film) but as a whole, I thought V/H/S was a fun ride from start to finish.  The film features five short films (with the thugs in the house functioning as a sort of sixth story.) each in a "found footage" kind of format.

Written by David Bruckner & Nicholas Tecosky
Directed by David Bruckner

The first segment starts things off with a bang.  It's on of my favorites, possibly because I really had no idea what to expect with this being the first segment and all.  Plus it introduced me to Hannah Fierman.  Man, I don't know what it is about her, but I found her both extremely creepy yet really hot at the same time.  Maybe I'm just warped, I dunno.  Tell ya what though, made me glad that I'm married and not in the singles scene anymore!  

Written & Directed by Ti West

I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with the final resolution of this particular segment.  There was a great set-up with a couple taking a trip through the Grand Canyon and at one point, they come across an electronic fortune telling machine ala the Zoltar machine in the Tom Hanks movie, Big.  As a matter of fact they even reference that in the scene.  I couldn't help but think that there were some missed opportunities in this segment.  I really enjoy Ti West's films and I was very surprised to find that this one was probably my least favorite entry.

Written & Directed by Glenn McQuaid

I really enjoyed this one.  It starts out pretty cliched and after my disappointment with the Second Honeymoon segment I was starting to lose a little interest when this one started.  That quickly started to change however as the story quickly took shape and freaky shit started happening. There are a few things in this one that really had me scratching my head, plotwise.....but the incredible creativity that went into the paranormal "punchline" of the segment allowed me to very quickly forgive the plot holes.

Written by Simon Barrett
Directed by Joe Swanberg

Well, first off, this segment gets the award for coolest title!  This was an interesting segment in that it completely takes place via a Skype-style video chat between a girl and her long distance boyfriend.  The concept of only being able to see what is going on from the vantage point of a laptop's webcam is really cool and makes for some tense moments, but being able to see her boyfriends reactions to what he is seeing on screen (via a screen in screen showing his own webcam's view) I think hurt it a bit.  That and the fact that the "reveal" is extremely confusing makes this one of the lesser entries, in my opinion.  Being who I am, and being a huge paranormal geek, I was able to figure out what was happening.....but I think that many could be very easily lost in what is going on.  A good effort and very creative......but could have used some more script work.

Written & Directed by Radio Silence

This is another one that really surprised me.  As the segment starts, it seemed to be a very similar set-up to Amateur Night.  Things quickly changed my mind, however.  This segment definitely had the most "creep" factor to it and the more I think about it, the more I want to watch it again.  It's easy to see why they saved this one for last.  The special effects in this segment are so well done that you would swear that these events were really unfolding on a simply VHS tape.  The second half of this segment is worth the entire price of admission alone.  When the paranormal shit hits the fan, it's a balls to the wall to the end.  You don't want to miss this.

Okay, so I've gone through each segment and done my best to not give anything away about them. I think part of the fun of this film is experiencing it for yourself without knowing what's coming at you next.  Sure this movie has some problems and sometimes has you scratching your head (Like why is there a VHS tape that contains Skype video chat footage?????) but I really think that adds to some of the fun.  While it's clear that not everything was shot on VHS, the film evokes that SOV 80's feeling pretty well....especially in the Tuesday the 17th segment.

All in all, I really loved V/H/S.....flaws and all....and more-so I would love to see this turned into a franchise.  I think that the found footage format has much to offer and there are still as of yet under-explored avenues that a really creative filmmaker could take.  Of course you can never have too many anthology films either.

You can watch V/H/S on VOD through your cable provider, rent it from itunes or amazon streaming, or you can catch it's limited theater release on October 8th.  No matter which way you choose to go, make sure you make it a point to see this one!

No comments:

Post a Comment