Friday, February 20, 2015

VHS: Viral - Terror Gets An Upload

VHS: Viral
Bunch of Directors, Writers and Stars!
Rated R - Approx 82 Min.
 8383 Productions/Bloody Disgusting/Collective Digital Studios
aka  Video Tapes: Virus 
         V/H/S: New Virus 

Mayhem Goes Viral

I sort of think of VHS as this generation's least in that it's an anthology franchise.  You don't see too many sequels to anthology films.  Sure, we just got The ABC's of Death 2 (which I covered yesterday) but I don't really consider that an anthology so much as a mini film-fest.  When I think of anthology films I think wraparound segment with 3 to 5 stories interspersed between.

If you've seen any of the prior VHS films then you know the score:  Anthology Found Footage Films.  However the series has been evolving with each edition that comes out.  In the first outing everything fit in with the VHS aesthetic. One of the shorts was filmed with a hidden camera in glasses, others with various forms of consumer handy-cams (except for the short that completely took place from a laptop computer's web cam).  They all looked like something you might find on a VHS tape.  In VHS 2, they started to use concepts like a camera in a fake eye, a Go-Pro camera and professional cameras used by a documentary crew.  In VHS: Viral we get cell phone footage, documentary crew footage, police surveillance footage, Go-Pro's and in one of the shorts, the found footage is completely dropped and takes on full cinematic framework!

So let's take a look at the newest entry piece by piece:

Vicious Circles - This is the wrap around segment and it follows the events during a police chase involving an ice cream truck.  Apparently the truck is leading the police in circles and spreading death and destruction in it's wake.  It's unclear really how this is supposed to tie in the other films.  It's quite disjointed and didn't make a lick of sense, but it had a few interesting moments in it.

Dante the Great - The first (and best) of the segments is presented like a documentary.  An aspiring magician living in a trailer park finds fame and fortune after finding a mysterious cape that allows him to perform real magic.  Unfortunately magic comes with a price and the supernatural entity that allows Dante to perform his miraculous feats needs to feed on fresh victims often.  Through various bits of footage (including Dante's own collection of VHS tapes that he keeps a record of the cape's victims on) we witness him descend further and further into darkness as the cape takes over.  When police raid his theater it's a pretty incredible fight as an armed SWAT team befalls terrible deaths at the hands of Dante and his magic.  As a former professional magician, of course I found this to be quite intriguing and if there was to be a rogue magi who was able to perform real magic, I imagine it would go down pretty much like this!  This is the segment in which the found footage aesthetic is dropped when the SWAT team confronts Dante.  Worth the price of admission for this segment.

Parallel Monsters - A man invents a machine that opens up a portal to another universe.  Turns out that his doppleganger from that universe created that same machine.  The two men, excited by their success and discovery decide to swap places for fifteen minutes to explore each other's mirrored universe.  All seems exactly the same at first, only mirrored.  Then a single picture hanging on the wall proves to be different in each universe and leads to the discovery that this are radically different.  There are some fun effects here and while it's not anything we haven't seen before in other films and TV shows, it's still a fun take.  It would have been nice to have been able to explore the parallel universe a little more, we still get a disturbing glimpse into a horrifying world.

Bonestorm - I've got some mixed feelings on this one.  On one hand our man characters are completely deplorable douche bags that you just want to punch in the face as soon as you meet them.  On the other hand, it's got some great practical effects and when shit goes sideways, it happens in the middle of the day....which somehow makes it even more disturbing.  So the "plot" revolves around some skateboard punks who hire a camera man to film them pulling off tricks and stunts.  They end up taking a trip down to Tijuana to drink, smoke weed and film some more.  That's when they run afoul of a Mexican death ritual.  Cult members start attacking them from every angle and after then manage to kill off all the cult members (with their skateboards and a gun that one of them randomly has (?)) they are transformed into skeletal wraiths and begin their attack anew.  What makes this particularly cool is the fact that these skeletal wraiths look A LOT like the Templar zombies from the Blind Dead series!  Also Bonestorm is such a 90's-tastic title!  Sounds like an NES or Sega game I would have played back in the day!


As usual there is plenty of gore to be had.  Some of the highlights include a SWAT team member having his chest and rib cage ripped open by magic with his innards falling out everywhere.  Various limbs are ripped asunder by various monsters.

There is some nudity, but not a lot.

There are a few different monsters on display here.  I don't want to give away too much here, so I'll just reiterate that the Mexican zombies are great!

Final Thoughts

I had a good time with this one.  It's certainly not redefining the genre here, but as far as found footage goes, you could do a lot worse.  I will be very interested to see where the VHS series goes from here.  There was supposed to be a forth segment titled Gorgeous Vortex, which if I'm not mistaken is where the DVD/Blu Ray image comes from.  I'm not sure why the segment was dropped though.

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