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Friday, October 5, 2012

The Dis List: V/H/S (2012) review


 V/H/S 2012

Starring lots and lots of people

Directed by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence

The Short Version: Proudly proclaimed by numerous critics as some sort of inventively terrifying anthology film uniquely unified within the 'found footage' format. And you would be fooled, too. This bloody balderdash is the dumbest, biggest cheat of a horror film to come along in some time. Exactly HOW these "movies" ended up on tape is never explained and question marks loom large over the bulk of these stories whose endings are more akin to a hemorrhoid than a sting in the tail. There are two good segments--the first and fifth story--and that's because they make the most sense. More CRAPSHOW than CREEPSHOW (watch that instead!), this two hour travesty has an occasional retro feel, variance in its stories as well as in the types of media used to present them, but don't take that as a recommendation for this critically lauded P/O/S.



Three young, violent and raucous cretins with a fondness for videotaping their criminal activities are hired by an unknown party to break into a house and steal a rare VHS tape. Upon entering the home, they discover a dead body situated in a chair in front of a cluster of televisions and video recorders. One of the crooks stays in the room while the others search the house and basement for the elusive tape. While they scour the creepy home, the one that stays behind decides to play the first tape already in one of the machines.

A collection of tales from the horror genres up and comers got together to make this consistently atrocious anthology film that doubles as a "found footage" movie. While there's creepy moments here and there, it's virtually barren when it comes to any form of genuine 'Boo' moments, despite desperately attempting them on multiple occasions. It's yet another example of a modern horror film that steadfastly refuses to create characters you care for that are put in peril. Instead we get a collage of creeps and obnoxious jerks who "deserve to die". With this being an omnibus, it's already difficult to build characters of interest, but nobody even tries here.

Probably what angers me the most is that this titanic two hour turd has been praised to high heaven by virtually every major review site which only made me want to see this even more. What movie did they see, actually?!

The Hollywood Reporter says, "Refreshingly, V/H/S promises no more than it delivers, always a plus with genre fare."--While this isn't overt praise, this review implies this movie is REFRESHING.

Dread Central says, "All five shorts and the wrap-around fit seamlessly together, bringing an entirely new spin on the seemingly exhausted found footage flavor of genre films. It is a relief that this style of filmmaking, though overused, can still have an entry that is enjoyable from start to finish."--While viewers finding this "enjoyable from start to finish" is entirely subjective, the only enjoyable part for me was when it was over with. Also, I found nothing seamless about the five shorts especially considering that the wraparound is "wrapped up" before the last story even begins! I'm still trying to figure out what that "new spin" is.


Horrornews.net says, "This was a movie by horror fans, for horror fans. It succeeds at what it is supposed to do: it entertains, and more importantly, it scares the audience."--I was rarely entertained and scared was not the emotion this P/O/S invoked. It was anger that I wasted $11 on a PPV worth a buck fifty as a rental. If this is what horror fans making the movies think is what we want, it's time to break the mold and make a new one.

slashfilm.com says, "V/H/S reinvents the horror anthology movie with terrifying found footage". They also say, "The film is also a response to the current trend of PG-13 horror films. There is blood and guts, private parts get ripped apart, and you’ll see a bunch of topless women. While I expect this film to sell quick, this is a reason you might not see V/H/S in your local small town multiplex."--The only thing terrifying is how bad it is. The use of multiple styles of media for each story is inventive, but that's as far it goes. If you were to see this film in your local small town multiplex, 'quick' is an apt description of its marquee life.

hitfix.com says, "one of the scariest movies I've seen in recent memory."--Nowhere even as remotely scary as suffering through another Quentin Tarantino borefest or the thought of George Lucas repeatedly making his old films "better".

Arrow in the Head says, "Horror fans will absolutely love this."--This one didn't.

Geek Tyrant says, "These videos play out like R-rated Twilight Zone episodes. Each one has a great little twist and reveal..." They also say, "This was a hell of a fun movie to watch, and if you enjoy watching horror films then you're going to love V/H/S."--This antholo-bomination is seriously lacking in "great little twists" and the bulk of the reveals will have you scratching your head to the point of drawing blood. I'd enjoy watching paint dry as opposed to watching this again.

And now for the stories themselves. There's nothing worth spoiling here, but in case you absolutely are DYING to lose 120 minutes you'll never get back, you may want to skip the rest of the review. The above portion adequately sums up my frustration with this movie; made all the more aggravating in that it was the single most eagerly awaited horror film of the year for me that I ended up wasting the equivalent of 2 1/2 gallons of gas to see on PPV.



 "Tape 56"



Three crooks who randomly make videos of them destroying private property, raping women and beating people up are contacted by a mysterious individual who states they will pay them handsomely if they will break into an old man's house and steal an allegedly rare VHS tape. 

This is supposed to be the wraparound segment that ties everything together. However, the wraparound bypasses the fifth episode entirely and wimps out to a substandard conclusion; which is just as well as the last segment is the best portion of the film outside of the average, but watchable first story. These crooks (who are more like a violent team of Three Stooges) break into this home late at night, and are about as conspicuous as you can be with their flashlights and apparent lack of knowing just what the hell "Be quiet" really means. Anyways, the big reveal isn't much of a revelation and about as plain-Jane as you can get.

"Amateur Night"



Three incredibly annoying guys embark on a night of debauchery and are unable to find any women willing to put up with their neolithic behavior. However, the nerdish member of the group attracts the attention of a peculiar girl in a bar. Finally finding one other girl who's either drunk or stoned, the three men take the two girls back to their motel room where things go terribly wrong.


Aside from the torture of listening to the dialog, or the perpetually non stop, irritating laughing of the three dead-guys-in-training, the sight of the girl with the clawed, scaly feet should have been clue number one to try to end the night in one piece. Still, this story has a genuine creep factor and a finish that recalls JEEPERS CREEPERS (2002).
 

 "Second Honeymoon"

Sam and Stephanie are on a second honeymoon traveling across the country. At one point on their trip while staying at a motel, Sam hears a noise at the door. He spies a black clad woman pacing outside not far from their room. He returns and tells Stephanie that this strange young lady asked for a ride the following day, but declined her request. Later that night, someone enters their room and videotapes the sleeping couple in between messing around with their things.

Some meager suspense is generated in this segment from Ti West, but the payoff is one of those head-scratchers I mentioned at top. It's not at all confusing, it's just rather pointless and bland. Why does the couple not hear this person fumbling around in their room barely six feet away from them? The only solid point to make about this segment is that it has the most disturbing moment of violence in the entire feature. It succeeds in echoing a snuff film level of disgust that's more or less negated by a limp wristed final scene that begs the question, "Why bother?"

"Tuesday the 17th"

Wendy and three of her friends head out into the woods in and around her hometown where years before, a series of killings occurred by a mass murderer who is said to still be at large.


The third story ultimately follows that very same trajectory of "Why Bother?" as the second tale, only this one totally runs "Second Honeymoon" off the road in terms of inanity. It is a slasher version of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT mixed with PREDATOR of all things and also battles it out with segment one for most brain-dead and irritating group of morons. 

Do not adjust your tracking or TV, those squiggly lines to the right are the killer
When images of mutilated bodies inexplicably appear in the camera the guy holding it doesn't become alarmed, but asks himself, "What's with this camera?!" And the increasingly bizarre remarks from Wendy such as, "You're all gonna fucking die up here" seem to go over everybody's head, too. The stunningly awful acting and dialog give the impression somebody has studied the written word of Rob Zombie. For example, the word 'fuck', while the single most oft used word throughout this torturous two hours, is uttered 52 times in this painful 15 minute lakeside stalk and bore alone.

The plot is nonsensical and incredibly stupid. That this girl wants to track down some supernatural mad slasher that's camouflaged like the Predator is already stretching it, but that she deliberately sacrifices her friends and boyfriend as bait for this killer who takes on the form of video distortion is ludicrous. It's also revealed that Wendy makes this trip annually. So has she been luring friends to their deaths all those times, too?! Another waste of film and of time.


"The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger"

Emily and her boyfriend James communicate via video chat while he's away in Michigan. She hears strange noises at night and eventually sees creepy images of what looks like a small child in her apartment. One day her arm begins to itch till she eventually cuts a large gash in her arm to find out why it itches so much. Meanwhile, the nightly occurrences increase. 

This is possibly the dumbest tale simply because it leaves the viewer with the most unanswered questions. The amount of head-scratching this 20 minute mess incurs is on par with the amount of severe scratching Emily does on her arm. A modicum of suspense is created, but flushed down the toilet towards the end when it's revealed James isn't actually in Michigan, but... in the next fucking room?!?!?! Apparently, James is either an alien, or working for the aliens and the ghost children seen in her "apartment" are aliens using him for some unknown experiments. 


Towards the end, James enters Emily's room after she's fell unconscious and cuts open her back and pulls out some sort of fetus all the while communicating with the weird looking kids that just mumble indecipherable jargon. Judging by James' dialog, he's does this regularly and the scratching of the arm comes from a tracking device(?). Nothing is explained even to the slightest degree and when this thing mercifully ends, it appears James has another girl whom he's communicating via video chat that is experiencing itching of the arm. As pointless as you can possibly get.

Since the framing device finishes up here, does it still count as a framing device? Who the hell put the last tape in the machine?! How the hell did all these things end up on tape in the first place?! Regardless, this last segment is better than anything the so-called framing device, or any of the other stories were able to muster.

"10/31/98"



Three friends are invited to a Halloween party but end up at the wrong house that turns out to be a lot more than haunted.

Yet again, we have three friends (with everything in three's why couldn't we have had just three stories?) as the victims-to-be, but the combined strength of some four directors fail to make these three fellows a crumbs worth as asshol-istic as those in the previous tales, which is a good thing. We don't learn anything about them and they say very little aside from 'fuck' and 'what the fuck'. This one is all about brevity and you barely learn these dudes names before they're on their way to encounter some PARANORMAL ACTIVITY on Halloween night. 

This simple segment derives the most creepiness and also has the most life of anything else this picture has to offer. It's a rather quickly paced spookshow that climaxes in high fashion even if the last scene is hardly a stinger, it's still far more worthwhile than the previous 105 minutes.


Had the other segments contained the level of spooky spunk this tail end tale has, we'd have something resembling the level of high praise afforded this waste of tape space. Don't adjust your tracking, don't be kind by rewinding, just return it. If you must watch, fast forward after the first story to the last one and hope the VCR doesn't eat the tape before it gets there. This is one video not worth the upgrade to DVD.


4 comments:

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

A succinct extermination Mr. Bankston! So the 'found footage' faux-documentary horror film finally catches up with the portmanteau format. We've had all the other sub-genres and forms...witchcraft, monster movies, poltergeists, demonic possession, zombies. The only thing left is vampires and werewolves...unless there is some piece of shit I've forgotten about? And still after all these years not a single one of them is fit to tie the shoelaces of THE LAST BROADCAST.

I particularly liked your inclusion of quotes from the brain dead post-apocalyptic wasteland that passes for horror film websites. The one from Slashfilm.com was very illuminating, and illustrates exactly what denominator the site appeals too. Such moronic criticism leaves me tempted to totally abandon reviewing horror films and instead concentrate on European art cinema.

venoms5 said...

There might be, Shaun. There's so many of these things out there now, I am not entirely sure if there's one with vamps or werewolves yet. TRICK R TREAT was an anthology film that was a breath of fresh air. Not a 'found footage' fiasco, but a well done and inventive omnibus with stories that overlap one another.

I was a bit shocked at the mountains of praiseworthy spooge this VHS has gotten. I was terribly disappointed in it. Not too far off the path of your last comment, Shaun, but it's movies like this that make me want to abandon reviewing newer horror pictures.

Maynard Morrissey said...

Pretty much agree with you on everything you wrote. First and last epsiode are nice, the rest sucks balls.

Thanks to douchebag "Mr Disgusting" Brad Miska who probably paid all the critics to write some uber-awesome hype-reviews.

venoms5 said...

I really wanted to see this, Harry. I thought the plot was eerie and with all the praise it was getting, my expectations were really high. Talk about a letdown. Yeah, if I remember right, Miska got a credit at the end for the anthology idea. What the hell?!

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