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Review of Found-Footage Horror "V/H/S" (2012)
Released at the Sundance Film Festival on early 2012 and theatrically released late 2012, V/H/S is a horror film that features five horror shorts within one story. Each is presented in the "found footage," homemade-style camera view.
While some critics claim the genre is worn out and should be laid to rest, the question must be asked if, in 2012, a "found footage" film can be original and, most importantly, scary. With the bad (Grave Encounters, The Devil Inside, The Tunnel, and a lot more) pile growing larger than the good ([REC], Blair Witch, and the Paranormal Activity series), where does this film stand?
The format of the film is used much less often than found footage, in general, with five independent tapes playing throughout the film and the encompassing tale progressing alongside. A gang of punk white dudes is hired anonymously to break into a house and steal a VHS tape. While inside, they find the body of an old man they presume to be dead and explore the house for the tape, in question. The first tape to be played tells the tale of three young guys who seek to pick up a couple chicks from a party and bring them back to their hotel room, where one guy will use his "spy glasses" to film the events. However, one of the girls they bring back is rather... strange. Bloody and suspenseful, this short is probably my favorite of the five, and provides a great start to the movie. As we see events through the glasses, the struggle and panic is more real than typical horrors.
The second short deals with a couple who are a vacation and have the unfortunate luck of running into a spot of trouble in the f/orm of a burglar. While this one isn't really suspenseful for most of its duration, the ending is surprising and graphic. Overall, I felt like this particular short was more or less pointless, not to mention borderline nonsensical. The third tape features a group of friends who visit a lake, yet one friend is shown to have lured the group there in hopes of extracting revenge from a killer who killed her past friends. The killer causes the camera the group is using to glitch, since he seems to have supernatural characteristics. This short is probably the one to fall short of its potential, more than the others. It could have been on par, scare wise, with the first tape, but fails.
The fourth tape to be played, while undoubtedly unique, is the worst short of the entire film. It revolves around a man and woman, who apparently know each other and have for some time, who web chat. The woman complains about weird occurrences in her apartment, yet she has no idea what her true problems are. The main point of contention I have with this story is its believability. No, not how believable its concepts and events are, but of the behaviors of the characters. Even when very scary things happen to the young woman (which wasn't scary to watch, to be honest), she stays in her apartment and more or less simply lives on, day to day. Setting that aside, another point to be made is the dialogue. Simply unconvincing, and distressingly so, even to the extent it detracts from the quality of the film, as a whole.
The last short is of a group of teens going to a Halloween party, but the house is haunted. As generic as that sounds, the delivery is decent enough to justify its place in this film. As far as the base story goes, a creepy atmosphere is maintained in the house and as the men explore it, and, in spite of some significant unanswered questions, it's worth it for entertainment's sake.
Final Thoughts: While major plot factors go unexplained, the film basically achieves what it promises to deliver, entertainment in the form of tales of horror. Notes of criticism to are aimed at things like the unnecessary length, tiring effects of the video ploy, and an ever decreasing sense of anxiety that was felt early on and should have been sought to have been kept. Far from a masterpiece, the film suffices for a basic horror film with average scares. It is unfortunate that the potential here was not fully utilized, but give it a rent. 7/10
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